East Palo Alto invited to meet top three candidates for police chief

City hopes to hire permanent department head by this fall

Members of the community will have a chance this Saturday to meet three candidates in the running to become East Palo Alto's new police chief.

An informal, public "meet and greet" with the candidates will be held from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. after a day of closed-session interviewing, according to Assistant City Manager Barbara Powell.

A 10-member panel appointed by the City Council will interview each candidate earlier in the day. Powell said Wednesday that the panel will include business owners, community leaders and seniors. In addition to the panel interview, each candidate will meet individually with each of East Palo Alto's council members, Powell said.

The panel and council members will provide their input to City Manager Magda Gonzalez, who is in charge of the final hiring decision. After she determines her preferred candidate, the city will conduct an extensive background check as well as a physical exam for that person, Powell said.

Powell said the city hopes to hire a new police chief by mid-October at the latest. The position has been a revolving door since longtime chief Ronald Davis left in November 2013 to serve as the director of the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) in Washington, D.C.

While the city has searched for a permanent replacement for Davis, three interim chiefs -- retired heads of other police departments -- were hired consecutively. Each was allowed to serve in the position for only 960 hours while retaining retirement benefits with the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), and two of the interim chiefs reached that limit.

Most recently, Steve Belcher, a retired Santa Cruz Police Department chief, took over in late June.

Saturday's meeting will be held in the council chambers at City Hall, 2415 University Ave., East Palo Alto.

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Like this comment
Posted by Question
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 6, 2014 at 12:59 pm

It would have been nice for the article to mention the names and backgrounds of the three candidates.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Question - for some reason, that info isn't being released right now. Another City Manager Magda Gonzalez screw-up, or a good idea? I don't know. I do know that she doesn't like to share or play nice or engage with the community, so this public meeting wasn't her idea.

Like this comment
Posted by CW
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2014 at 2:12 pm

The names weren't released because that would allow people to research the candidates before the meeting, and ask questions focused on their past. In East Palo Alto, city officials try to keep people in the dark as much as possible. So, no names are going to be released before the meeting. That would be way to transparent.

If you think about it, who would want to be the police chief in East Palo Alto? It seems like the kind of job you take when you are being fired in another city. If you have good career prospects, why would you want to work for [portion removed] Ruben Abrica and Larry Moody? This is a city government that can't get its act together, and it's not going to attract good candidates for police chief or city manager. I mean the new rent control manager quit after two weeks on the job. That should tell you everything.

Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2014 at 2:28 pm

After watching Councilmember Abrica, I am pleased to say that he [portion removed] serves the East Palo Alto City residents well. Most importantly, he is knowledgable, caring, concerned, and transparent, something that we all should aspire to in our lives. Councilmember Moody hasn't been in the job long enough for most to past judgement.

[Portion removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Memories
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Being chief in EPA is a great opportunity for an ambitious, smart, motivated, savvy cop. Not sure why the city manager has dragged her feet.

Like this comment
Posted by Raymond
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 7, 2014 at 11:07 am

Were I given a chance, I would ask each of the three candidates how he/she plans to reach out to the community.

Gang violence is a huge problem, but understanding the people is how to approach this problem. Typically residents distrust Law Enforcement as much as they do Gang Members.

I have lived in EPA for 6 yrs now and have been pulled over for questioning and background checks three times. I don't feel protected by Police; I feel harassed.

So tell me; How will you create a bridge between those you intend to protect and Law Enforcement officials?

Because right now, I could live without either the "Good Guys" or The "Bad Guys".

Like this comment
Posted by Opal'z
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 7, 2014 at 11:33 am

Opal'z is a registered user.

They won't tell us who the candidates are before the meeting and since the general public isn't on the panel that was selected to interview the candidates, I'm not sure what the point is of inviting the public to meet them.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 8, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Opal'z - actaully, the general public is on a panel to help select the new chief. People from the community comprise the panel. This has been the community standard for years, which Magda Gonzalez didn't want to do this time, but she finally had to agree to do it the traditional way.

The community panel interviews the three candidates tomorrow for 5 hours, which also includes time they spend with city council, then they're introduced to the public. These three are the finalists from a total of 34 who applied. Then, city manager will gather community and council input and make an offer. She then will run away from EPA with her tail between her legs, to her new job.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 8, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

CW - your ignorance is quite telling, especially when you live in a city where your last chief retired due to scandal, and ours moved on to a job at the DOJ.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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