Hailing a chief

Just about five months ago in this space, I mentioned that there was “a big story in Chico that no one is telling” and decided to “put the buzz in writing.”

That buzz (a prediction, really): “Bruce Hagerty’s leave may last longer than five months. In fact, if some individuals of influence have their way, it’ll be permanent.”

Last Thursday (June 11), this came to pass. The Chico Police Department announced Hagerty’s retirement as chief, effective three days later. He’d been out on medical leave since January, so the decision came right around the time that five-month window was about to close.

Reacting to the news, city officials spoke in terms that were universally positive, albeit a bit generic. (See news story.) The consensus comment was the hope he’ll enjoy a healthy, happy retirement in which he continues to lend his support to community endeavors. I second that emotion; as I wrote, “his volunteer efforts on behalf of Chico youth—Boys and Girls Club, Sunshine Kids Club—and through Chico Rotary are widely respected and appreciated (so much so that they suggest a niche for when he does retire).”

Some of the details remain unclear. What the city disclosed is that Hagerty stepped down for medical reasons, in conjunction with a disability filing, and there was no additional compensation requiring City Council approval. Other details fall under the umbrella of employer-employee confidentiality.

The prevailing sentiment seems to be look through the windshield, not the side mirror. The Hagerty era has ended; time to move forward.

Fair enough, for now.

Up the road sits a landmark: hiring the new chief. Mike Maloney has had the aforementioned five months as acting chief, plus an indeterminate number of months to follow as interim chief, to show what he can do. Early impressions on decision-makers have been positive.

(More foreshadowing: In Best of Chico 2007, when Maloney was selected best local lawman, the write-up stated, “When Hagerty steps down, we have a good feeling we know who’ll step up.”)

As editorialized this week, it’s important for the city to take citizens’ opinions into account when determining the desired characteristics of the new chief.

I’d like to throw these thoughts into the mix:

• Chico PD needs a chief who’s collaborative, approachable, flexible and politic—not someone who’s territorial, defensive, intractable or insulting.

• The chief’s office should be a long-term place—not a way-station for a big-city cop a few years from retirement, seeking a nifty title and pay raise.

Chico should be a long-term place—not just any ol’ spot to call home.

City Manager Dave Burkland did well in landing Jim Beery, the fire chief he drew from Portland, Ore., last July, and John Rucker, the assistant city manager promoted from police captain a few months later. He and the council should look to these hires for inspiration.

Quick PSA: Flush with the success of her community rummage sale for Catalyst, the American Cancer Society and the Salvation Army, former Chico Mayor Georgie Bellin is organizing a charity carnival and used-bike sale the afternoon of June 27 at California Park Pavilion. The idea this time is people with old bicycles will donate them, local shops will refurbish them, and people who need cheap rides will buy them. To arrange a bike pickup, or for more information, call Joan Bacchus at 321-7576.