Changing of the guardian
With Hagerty’s retirement, the Chico Police Department gets an interim chief with an indefinite timetable
Entering his 30th year in law enforcement, Mike Maloney finds himself in a position that’s at once familiar and foreign. He’s spent the past five months as acting chief of the Chico Police Department, a role he filled in the spring of 2007, when Bruce Hagerty previously went on medical leave. With Hagerty’s retirement this week, Maloney is interim chief, another title he’s held with the Chico PD.
This time is different, though. There’s a chance—a pretty good one, based on initial response from city officials—that Maloney will get the job for good. So, as he carries out the responsibilities of running the department, he does so “very cognizant” of his new status.
“I’ve spoken to the city manager [Dave Burkland] and assistant city manager [John Rucker] and several council members over the past several months, and they’ve expressed their full faith and confidence in me,” Maloney said Wednesday morning by phone from the Denver airport, awaiting a connecting flight home. “Dave and John have given me the authority to run the department. But it’s not a permanent thing. Until there’s a final decision made, I always have to have in the back of my mind that I could implement something and a chief could come from outside the department and undo it.
“Bottom line is I’m always cognizant of it. We do what we have to do and see what happens.”
Hagerty announced his retirement last Thursday (June 11), effective June 14. He came to Chico in 2003 after four years as police chief in Ridgecrest and around three decades with the Los Angeles Police Department.
“I think it’s been anticipated; the issue was when it was going to happen,” Det. Jim Parrott said. “I don’t think it was any big shock, and I don’t think anyone is either losing sleep or celebrating. Chiefs come and go. … He’s had a long career at three agencies and deserves a good retirement.”
In a news release from the Chico PD (he did not return a phone call from the CN&R), Hagerty cited medical reasons. He’d been out since January for a back condition that required a second surgery in two years. “Doctors have agreed that retirement is appropriate at this time,” the release stated.
Burkland and Human Resources Director Teresa Campbell, citing employee confidentiality, did not discuss specifics, except to say that the City Council would not need to authorize special compensation for the outgoing chief. According to Campbell, “the city did not and will not pay anything above what is required by law.”
Asked about his legacy, Burkland replied: “Bruce was a strong leader. I really admired his leadership and his involvement in the community. When you look at what he’s done with the Boys and Girls Club and Chico Rotary, he’s a high-profile individual who’s really contributed to the community. He was a highly experienced policeman and police chief. He certainly was able to bring value to the Police Department.”
Mayor Ann Schwab said Hagerty “did a great job serving the city. He had a long history in law enforcement. What he left Chico with was a very tight organization, and that’s very evident in the transition the last six months while he was out on medical leave. The department ran really well with the people he trained.”
Schwab praised the promotion of Chico’s first female captain, Lori McPhail, as well as Maloney, who also earns high marks from Vice Mayor Tom Nickell.
“Personally, I think Mike has more than proved himself,” said Nickell, a retired California Highway Patrol officer. “He’s a good all-around manager respected by his peers and the community. I think we should appoint chief of police and move on, move forward.”
Not so fast. Before an appointment is made, Burkland intends to conduct a full search process he anticipates requiring at least six months.
“We certainly have every confidence in Mike Maloney,” he said earlier this week, “But I think it’s the best thing to recruit and to allow the community, council and staff to have input into the appointment of the new chief.
“It’s similar to my position [when the council approved his promotion from assistant city manager to interim city manager, then to city manager]. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was important for me to go through that process to learn my resolve and the significance of that position. If there had been someone the council thought was more qualified for the job, I’d certainly have enjoyed working with that person.”
That’s Maloney’s view, too, though he admitted he’ll be disappointed if someone else gets chosen.
“I’m prepared to step up to the plate tomorrow or three months from now or whenever they complete the process,” he said. “I do in fact want the position, so whatever it takes to get there … Frankly, at the risk of sounding overly confident, I don’t think that there’s anybody out there who can match my level of experience in the community and the department.”
Maloney has been with the Chico PD the past 24 years, after a five-year stint in Glenn County. He grew up in San Francisco, graduated from Butte College, completed his bachelor’s degree in business management at Saint Mary’s College while working, and also completed the FBI national academy and California Law Enforcement Command College. He’s been captain for slightly more than 10 years.
“Obviously, Mike Maloney is someone we have a long-term relationship with,” said Parrott, a board member of the Chico Police Officers Association, the union of which Maloney was president in the early ’90s. “We certainly have a good relationship there and a good ability to communicate. We’re certainly looking forward to his time as chief.”
Communication is one of Maloney’s immediate priorities. As acting chief, he began sending e-mail updates to council members (titled “Police Tidbits”) and is launching the Chico Chief’s Blog (http://chicochiefsblog.blogspot.com) to keep the community apprised of developments.
He also plans to reform the Police Community Advisory Board. “I’m not going to get into criticizing or questioning decisions made over my head the past 10 years,” he said, “but I think [the waning of the advisory board] is partly responsible for the perception that we are less available to the public.”
Along with inviting representatives from Chico State and community organizations, Maloney plans to “increase involvement from citizens at large.” He also plans to hold the meetings at places outside police headquarters—“while we’d like to feel people are comfortable coming into our inner sanctum, the truth is people aren’t always that comfortable.”
His other priority is “taking a real hard look to make sure we’re doing the best with what we have” during the state budget crisis and economic downturn that are affecting city finances.
“We’re hoping he moves us forward,” Parrott said, “and gets us back to doing what we need to do.”