Andrew Binder, a law-enforcement veteran with 25 years of experience in Palo Alto and San Jose, has been chosen to become Palo Alto's new police chief, pending the City Council's approval on Aug. 8, the City Manager's Office announced on Tuesday.
Binder, who has been with Palo Alto's police force for more than seven years, took over as acting chief in June with the retirement of Robert "Bob" Jonsen. Prior to coming to Palo Alto, Binder worked for 18 years with the city of San Jose, City Manager Ed Shikada's office said in a statement.
Binder will oversee a department with 125 full-time employees, including 86 sworn officers and a $40 million budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year. The department has eight divisions: field services, technical services, investigations, traffic services, parking services, police personnel services, animal services and administration. Palo Alto police respond to 55,000 calls for service annually, according to the city.
Binder has held command-level, executive-leadership roles in Palo Alto, from lieutenant to captain, and he was assistant chief for two years before his assignment as acting chief. He was selected by Shikada to be the top cop after extensive community engagement and nationwide recruitment, according to the statement.
Binder is a Bay Area native and holds a bachelor's degree in criminal justice administration from San Jose State University and a master's degree in criminal justice from Arizona State University. He has completed the FBI National Academy for Law Enforcement Managers as well as the Executive Development Course from the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), according to the statement.
Shikada began recruitment for the new chief in January after Jonsen announced his plans to retire this summer. (Jonsen is currently in a runoff election for Santa Clara County sheriff against former sheriff's Capt. Kevin Jensen.)
Shikada's search for a new police chief involved holding multiple community listening sessions, including a meeting with the city's Human Relations Commission; reviewing online submissions; and having numerous conversations for input on the priorities and key skills for the job. Information on the selection process can be found at cityofpaloalto.org/policechiefselection.
Sixteen stakeholders, including residents, city leadership staff, public safety unions, police chiefs from other Bay Area cities and local representatives in business, faith, education and other groups, took part in a separate panel interview process, the city noted. Panelists included:
• Don Austin, superintendent, Palo Alto Unified School District.
• Lt. Ben Becchetti, labor, Police Managers Association.
• Geo Blackshire, Palo Alto fire chief.
• Agent Christopher Correia, labor, Palo Alto Police Officers Association.
• Chantal Cotton Gaines, Palo Alto deputy city manager.
• Winter Dellenbach, community member.
• Erica Escalante, president, Buena Vista Residents Association.
• Annette Glanckopf, team leader, Palo Alto Emergency Services Volunteers.
• Hamilton Hitchings, community member.
• Meghan Horrigan-Taylor, Palo Alto chief communications officer.
• Chris Hsiung, Mountain View police chief.
• David Mineta, CEO, Momentum for Health.
• Daryl Savage, Human Relations Commission.
• John Shenk, CEO, Thoits Brothers.
• Kaloma Smith, Human Relations Commission chair.
• Shawny Williams, Vallejo police chief.
Two members of the interviewing panel, Dellenbach and Glanckopf, said they were pleased with the process to vet the new chief, calling the process detailed and thorough.
"There was definitely a nationwide search and the process was very competitive," Glanckopf said.
Both she and Dellenbach said the panelists signed a nondisclosure agreement not to discuss specific candidates or the quality of the candidate pool.
The panel interviewed all of the candidates by Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The city "did a fabulous job of pulling it all together," Glanckopf added.
Dellenbach said that before committing to joining the panel, she asked the city many questions to be sure the interviewing and hiring process would be thorough and not window dressing. The city staff answered her questions to her satisfaction.
"I was impressed — more than I thought I was going to be," she said. "This was a really critical hire of a police chief because of what the country has been going through" regarding race inequity and officer-involved homicides across the nation.
The Palo Alto Police Department has had its share of transparency issues, such as the controversial encryption of police radio dispatches and excessive use of force by some officers, which led to lawsuits, large monetary settlements and a criminal case.
"This was an uncommonly important hire. I was very heartened and felt the city took it seriously. A lot of thought went into the whole process. The panel was wonderfully diverse, and I very much appreciated that," Dellenbach said.
Glanckopf said that she was pleased about Shikada's decision to hire Binder as the chief. Binder "really shone" during the vetting process.
As assistant chief, Binder was the face of the department for years before the Human Relations Commission, often listening and answering questions during the department's controversies where he did "the heavy lifting," she noted.
"I think Andrew has so much integrity. His heart is really in the right place for doing the right thing for Palo Alto," she said.
"Andrew is so passionate about policing. To listen to him — his knowledge, energy and integrity — if there's an ideal police chief, he's the one. To me, it's the right choice. He's the best candidate for the job."
Shikada said in the announcement that Binder "clearly rose to the top."
"I am confident that Andrew's experience and leadership skills position him well to advance Palo Alto's public safety priorities; he also has the knowledge, commitment, and forward-thinking that aligns with the Palo Alto community," Shikada said.
Binder said in the statement that he looks forward to continuing to work with other city staff and "building on the progress we've made delivering public safety services to the community."
"The police department will continue addressing crime professionally and equitably, and focus on key areas such as accountability, communications and community engagement, and the wellness of our personnel. I am thrilled to continue to partner with the Palo Alto community and union leadership to further the important work of the department."
Shikada has invited the panel members to attend Monday's City Council meeting, when the council is scheduled to vote on officially accepting Binder's hire.
More information about the Police Department, including an annual report, is available at cityofpaloalto.org/police.