Monday, 15 July 2024

CPD's interim chief takes on department challenges

 

The department's longtime police chief, Bob Chalk, retired Dec. 31, and with him went his longtime lieutenant, Ron Larsen. Six months before that, CPD's captain had left, as had the records and communications supervisor.


In effect, the department's entire command staff was vacant, he explained.


“I'm walking into a vacuum,” Todd said.


But Todd, who has been in law enforcement for 38 years, said he adheres to a motto that sits, framed, on his desk: “No whining.”


Todd, who began his career in West Covina's police department, also served in Pleasanton before becoming chief at the Los Gatos/Monte Sereno department, where he worked for 15 years. He retired in 2001, although he stayed on with Los Gatos in a temporary capacity until 2002. Since then, he has served as an interim chief in Hollister and Novato.


He's come to Clearlake to help assess the department's needs and recruit for a new police chief, he said.


After decades of leading and supervising police departments, “You learn what to look for and what issues are most critical to deal with,” he said.


At the same time, he's beginning the recruitment process for the rest of the command staff. Filling those positions as quickly as possible isn't important just to the department, but the community as well, he said.


He'll open up an in-house hiring process first, he said, to give current staffers with good qualifications a chance to move up. However, Todd said, if the right candidate can't be found from within, the process will be opened to the public.


He also plans a sergeant's test process to offer CPD's officers a chance to advance in case he moves a current sergeant into a lieutenant's position.


As part of getting that process started, on Jan. 25 Todd will take a number of “information only” items to the City Council, including the recruitment plans he wants to pursue.


“It's important to keep the lines of communication open,” he said of his relationship with the council.


Todd said he expects the city to move forward aggressively in the hiring process for a chief. That recruitment could take anywhere from five to eight months, he said.


He said he plans to help the process through drawing on his many contacts throughout the state. That, along with the head hunter firm's skills, should hopefully help Clearlake Police attract strong candidates for the chief's spot, he said.


Staffing, said Todd, “is a significant issue” throughout the entire department.


The department has 27 officer positions, he said, with four vacancies, one officer on administrative leave and two officers in a training program. Another officer Todd just hired is also slated to begin training, which he said lasts 16 to 20 weeks.


Some of the officers have had to help cover the dispatch center, said Todd.


Of CPD's six dispatch slots there is one vacancy, one in training and one on long-term disability, leaving only three dispatchers who work 12-hour shifts to keep the center staffed, he reported.


In addition, Todd said he has assigned an officer to the property and evidence room to cover for the vacant records/dispatch supervisor.


The department's two day sergeants, Mike Hermann and Craig Clausen, are now serving as division commanders, with Clausen focusing on support services and Hermann on patrol.


“Everybody's working 180 percent right now,” Todd said.


Despite the staffing shortages, Todd said the department morale “appears to be good,” and that its employees are eager to see the chief's chair permanently filled.


“There's always a level of anxiety when someone new comes into an organization,” said Todd.


Todd said he's held a department-wide meeting to find out about the staff's concerns, what things they would like to see changed and their suggestions for making those changes.


“There's really a good group of employees here,” Todd said,


In many agencies, he said, it's common to see officers and staff living outside of their respective cities, but that most of CPD's staff lives in the city limits, and many have grown up in the county.


Todd said his philosophy of police work is this: “We're here to provide services to the community.”


He added, “Our job is to go out and be problem solvers.”


That, he added, can take many forms, from enforcement in crime situations to providing comfort and support for victims.


In order to understand CPD's needs, how it serves Clearlake and the community's particular issues, he's asking a lot of questions, listening to radio traffic to see how service is delivered, welcoming staff suggestions and planning ride-alongs with officers.


He's also met with District 2 Supervisor Jeff Smith and other community members to find out more about historical issues and perceptions of the department.


“Perceptions aren't always accurate,” he said, and it's a police chief's constant job to change any misperceptions that exist.


In the midst of all of that, Todd is about to jump into the city's budgeting process. Every city budgets differently, he said, so he needs to learn Clearlake's methods so he can budget for the department's needs in the 2007-08 fiscal year.


He said personnel is his “no. 1 priority right now,” but he's also dealing with smaller issues, such as having extra vehicles declared as surplus and removed from CPD's grounds.


Todd emphasized the need to stay positive while facing the kinds of challenges CPD is up against.


“We'll get through it,” he said.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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