Hail to the chief

Chico has a new top cop and we wish him well leading this temperamental organization

After a national search for a new Chico police chief, City Manager Mark Orme went with an internal candidate, Capt. Mike O’Brien, a longtime and well-respected member of the Chico Police Department. Time will tell whether O’Brien will provide the leadership the job requires, and whether he’ll stick around for more than three years.

What we do know is that there’s a track record of internal promotions to that post and then quick exits after only a few years of lackluster leadership. The last two police chiefs spent too much time and effort playing politics, allowing their employees to ramp up the rhetoric about police understaffing.

The posturing from the top of the department on down to the rank and file always seemed to coincide with the contract negotiations between the city and the police union, the Chico Police Officers’ Association. The union’s leadership in recent years has a habit of holding the public hostage—or at least attempting to—in an effort to make citizens sympathetic to their plight. From what we heard during the negotiations, you’d think they were working in East Oakland, not Chico.

During these times, the chiefs did little to ensure Chico’s residents that public safety was the department’s No. 1 priority. And then, poof, they were outta there, taking advantage of the California Public Employees Retirement System that allows longtime public safety employees to retire at 50 years old on an extremely generous taxpayer-funded cushion (90 percent of their highest salary).

We’re skeptical that O’Brien will stay beyond the time—three years from now—when he reaches his max-retirement payout, and who could blame him? But we’ll keep an open mind about his intentions. And we wish him well.