Palo Alto looks to pick new police chief this fall | News | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto looks to pick new police chief this fall

Application period set to close in late August, with interviews set for September and October

If you're a decisive, high-energy visionary with a strong command presence, proven success in dealing with unions and the stamina to thrive in a demanding environment, Palo Alto wants to hear from you.

Those are some of the qualities that City Manager James Keene would like to see in the city's new police chief, according to a recruitment brochure for the position. In addition, the ideal candidate would have at least five years of service at the command level, outstanding interpersonal skills and familiarity with "contemporary policing strategies suitable for a highly educated and engaged community." A full description for the job can be found here.

The city is recruiting a new chief to fill the position left vacant by Dennis Burns, who retired in January. The position has since been filled by interim Chief Ron Watson, a department veteran who made it clear that he is not running for the permanent position.

Recruitment for the permanent position is now in full swing, with the application deadline set for Aug. 27 and preliminary interviews scheduled for September. After the Aug. 27 deadline, the city's consultants would interview the applicants with the most relevant qualifications, who would move on to interviews by panels featuring department heads, community members and professional peers, according to the brochure.

The top candidates would be invited to meet the city manager, with the final interviews set to take place in October.

The position comes with a salary range of $181,126 to $271,689, depending on qualifications and experience.

The brochure describes its ideal candidate as a "visionary contemporary policing professional who is known for promoting high standards of professionalism and performance at all levels of an organization." He or she will also be expected to "possess the stamina to thrive in a demanding environment and embrace the opportunity to serve a progressive community with extraordinarily high expectations," according to the brochure.

Claudia Keith, Palo Alto's chief communication officer, said the city also plans to send out a survey to the community, seeking input on the qualities residents would like to see in the chief. The start date for the new chief is expected to be some time in November, she said.

The Police Department includes 158.4 full-time-equivalent positions and is supported by a $42.3 million budget.


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6 people like this
Posted by Joaquin Escobar
a resident of another community
on Aug 1, 2017 at 6:25 pm

I have never been a police officer but as Lead Clerk/Cashier for a major supermarket chain, I have had extensive experience dealing with unions along with command experience under oftentimes demanding work conditions.

Would the lack of law enforcement experience prove to be a detriment in the initial screening process? I have been told that this is primarily an administrative role and only on rare occasions will a police chief actually take to the field.

I have the utmost respect for the profession and would like to serve in a non-combatant role.

2 people like this
Posted by Chris Gaither
a resident of Mayfield
on Aug 2, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Joaquin Escobar, you should apply regardless if you do not have the Police service experience which seems to be required. I love your spunk simply for asking the question. I got a great laugh, but who knows all things are possible in this world, as we saw in the last presidential election. But, perhaps, you should at least do the police drive along and see if you would be able to face some of the issues that do arise :).

Like this comment
Posted by M. Driscoll
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 2, 2017 at 12:28 pm

A police chief with an extensive supermarket background couldn't be any worse than some of the past PA 'top cops'. *LOL*

Mr. Escobar. I'd go ahead and apply but prepare yourself to be overshadowed by some captain/assistant chief from another locale. That's how it works around here.

10 people like this
Posted by Firefighter
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 2, 2017 at 4:31 pm

Another option: terminate the current Fire Chief and hire a Public Safety Chief to oversee both the Police and Fire Departments. This has worked well for some California cities.

9 people like this
Posted by Greatest Gridlock
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 2, 2017 at 5:02 pm

See if the Menlo Park fire chief can be lured to Palo Alto. I love how outspoken he is about the dangers of gridlock and the ridiculous traffic policies that make it impossible for first responders to get to the scene of an accident in a timely fashion.

If you talk to our rank and file police officers, you'll hear how upset they are at some of our sillier traffic policies that make their jobs tougher while putting our lives at risk to satisfy some bureaucrat's notion of "traffic diets" etc.

2 people like this
Posted by Orin Bailey
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 3, 2017 at 12:49 pm

"A police chief with an extensive supermarket background couldn't be any worse than some of the past PA 'top cops'." *LOL*

Like Johnson? Just asking.

Like this comment
Posted by Kirk Wood
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2017 at 6:47 am

High probability that the new chief will be retired from San Jose PD. However, I would caution residents and city leaders from falling into their trap. Your neighbor Los Altos PD hired a former assistant chief from San Jose PD and under his reign of terror, the agency was decimated by former San Jose officers. The chief touted these officers as highly qualified while crime rates (burglaries) went up and productivity went down. Their current chief is also retired from San Jose and there is no sign of change or hope for that police department. I would encourage the city to seek a leader from an agency of relative size and demographics. Oh, and don't forget the true motivation from retired San Jose admin to seek these positions. San Jose is a non-PERS agency, which means that they can "retire" and collect up to 90% of their San Jose salary, while collecting 100% of their new salary as chief. Good luck!

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