Ramsey County Sheriff Matt Bostrom said Tuesday that he will leave his post next month to lead a University of Oxford study on changing hiring practices to increase trust in police.

Bostrom said he has traveled to Oxford, England, twice for his involvement in the study, funded his own expenses and continued to work as sheriff while away. The Sheriff's Office confirmed that Bostrom officially became an Oxford student on Oct. 10, and that in the last eight weeks he has spent a total of 30 business days in England.

Bostrom, who will serve as a project leader, said he has not been paid by Oxford for his work. The study is based on character-based hiring practices in Ramsey County that originated with community recommendations.

Bostrom, 55, was elected in 2010. His last day as sheriff is Jan. 3.

"We have an opportunity to accomplish something great for our profession," he said at a news conference announcing his retirement. "I have a sense of moral obligation to share this progress with others. If we are successful, the tool we develop could be used by agencies around the world."

Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. John Eastham said that the Oxford study, which will analyze Ramsey County's practices and then look at other agencies in the United States, will take at least three years. There is no guarantee it will be funded, he said, adding that the first window for possible funding is next March.

Appointing a replacement

Ramsey County Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt said commissioners will meet Dec. 13 to discuss appointing Bostrom's replacement.

The law and county charter don't permit a special election to replace Bostrom, who is leaving two years before the end of his second four-year term. Voters will elect a new sheriff in 2018.

Bostrom described his "recent visits" to the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford in a Nov. 21 e-mail to staff.

He wrote how he shared his work in Ramsey County on "comprehensive character based selection, training, and reinforcement" with authorities across the United States, and how it could be used worldwide. The e-mail stopped short of explicitly stating any plans to leave his post.

Goal is to change hiring

"The Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford is sponsoring the development of a model that can be replicated," the e-mail read. Its objective, he continued, is to change the type of people who are recruited to work as officers "and reinforce excellent character within police agencies."

Bostrom said Tuesday that about a year ago, he e-mailed someone at the university to gauge their interest in Ramsey County's work. That resulted in several Skype meetings before he began traveling to England.

'A very good sheriff'

Bostrom "has been a very good sheriff," said Commissioner Rafael Ortega, adding that it was his hope that Bostrom could remain in that post while pursuing his ambitions with Oxford.

Sheriff's Cmdr. Ty Sheridan said he didn't detect any concern among the rank-and-file that Bostrom was leaving in the middle of his term.

"I don't think anyone has any problems" with it, he said. "The Sheriff's Office — I always envision it like a steamroller — it doesn't go very fast, but nothing's going to stop it or make huge bumps."

Long interest in the topic

Bostrom's father, St. Paul City Council Member Dan Bostrom, said that years ago, his son, while pursuing an advanced degree at Hamline University, did a paper on character-based hiring in law enforcement.

"Someone over at Oxford asked him to make a presentation," he said. "They liked what they saw and have been pursuing him."

Bostrom became the county's 21st sheriff in January 2011 and earns $151,972.21. He was sworn in to his second term in January 2015. The Sheriff's Office employs more than 400 with an annual budget of nearly $50 million. Its jail has 500 beds.

Eastham said Bostrom plans to serve at least 20 of his last days as sheriff in town instead of abroad.

paul.walsh@startribune.com 612-673-4482