Meet Chico’s new police chief

Maloney lays out goals for department

CAREER CULMINATION <br> After 30 years as a police officer and nearly 25 with the Chico Police Department, Mike Maloney has been selected as the city’s new chief of police.

After 30 years as a police officer and nearly 25 with the Chico Police Department, Mike Maloney has been selected as the city’s new chief of police.

Photo By robert speer

Every rookie police officer knows—and anticipates with some foreboding—that he or she eventually will be called to the scene of a fatal auto accident. For Mike Maloney, Chico’s new chief of police, the moment was nothing he could have anticipated.

It happened nearly 30 years ago, at a rural intersection near Bayliss, in Glenn County. A man in a pickup had run a stop sign, T-boning a car driven by a young woman and killing her. She turned out to be the next-door neighbor of Maloney’s then-fiancée.

The driver who hit her had been shopping. Among his purchases: an industrial-size bottle of mayonnaise. It exploded on impact, “sending globules of mayonnaise everywhere,” even onto the victim. It was Maloney’s job to lift her body from the car.

Later, he had to deliver the sad news to his fiancée.

Did this surreal introduction to the violence of police work make him reconsider his career choice? Not at all. This is a guy whose second-grade teacher sent home a note to his parents reading, “Even now it is evident that Michael wants to be a police officer when he grows up.”

Law enforcement is in his blood. Maloney’s father, Robert Maloney, was a highway patrolman before becoming an attorney; he’s now assistant district attorney in Shasta County. The younger Maloney began his career in law enforcement right after graduating with a degree in management from St. Mary’s College, starting out as an officer with the Willows Police Department, then becoming a Glenn County sheriff’s deputy.

He’s been with the Chico department since 1985, rising through the ranks to become captain of Operations, one of the two major divisions in the department.

Twice he’s served as interim chief, and last week he was selected from among 25 applicants to succeed the retired Bruce Hagerty as permanent chief.

Not that Maloney’s taking anything for granted. He’s still working out of his cramped captain’s office, waiting to move into the chief’s more spacious digs until the City Council makes his selection official on Sept. 15. He sat down with me there recently for an interview.

Right off the bat, he acknowledged a mistake.

Asked about a Monday (Sept. 7) article in the Chico Enterprise-Record reporting that data the Police Department had recently released showed “a stark increase in the number of homicides, robberies, burglaries and auto thefts reported this past quarter,” Maloney said the department had erred in putting the information on its Web site at a time when, because of the Labor Day weekend, nobody was available who could “put it in perspective.”

People could get the wrong impression, he said. In the case of homicides, for example, the figures are skewed because of the anomaly of three killings in three months, an extremely rare occurrence.

Overall, and despite what quarterly figures may show, violent crime is down in recent years, while nonviolent property crimes are up. Maloney said he can’t explain the former, but the latter is almost certainly because of the weak economy.

Maloney was interim chief for the better part of a year, which gave him time to think about goals should he get the job permanently.

His first internal goal is to hire a second captain to head up the Support Division, joining Capt. Lori MacPhail, who has replaced him as head of the Operations Division. Maloney said he hopes to have it filled “no later than the end of January.”

The second internal goal is to begin, as soon as a second captain is in place, a full-scale strategic-planning process. The last time a strategic plan was developed was in 2000, he said.

The plan’s purpose would be to establish priorities and give general direction to the department, something that is especially important in this era of limited resources, Maloney said. Creating it will involve a large number of officers—the planning team numbered 40 last time around—doing outreach to find out what Chicoans want from their Police Department.

Maloney’s first external goal is to improve communications. “I’ve developed a sense that … some people don’t feel comfortable contacting us,” he explained.

To that end, he’s reviving former Chief Mike Dunbaugh’s Police Chief’s Community Advisory Board, only this time he wants it to have more “average citizens” as members, not just community leaders.

He also wants better communication with City Council members and others in city government. So he’s begun “Police Tidbits,” an e-newsletter that he sends out to let people know what’s going on in the department.

On another front, he wants to address something that’s long vexed police departments across the country: chronic neighborhood problems. These can be anything from abandoned cars or neglected dwellings to someone with too many dogs—problems the police often get called to but lack the ability to solve.

Maloney is going to use federal funding for four officer positions to create a “Target Team” to focus on these problems—and also to form affiliated CORE PROS (Coordinated Regional Problem Solving) teams composed of a code-enforcement officer, a traffic officer, a fire-prevention inspector and the Target Team officer. There will be three such teams, one in each of three geographical districts in the city.

By doing this, he hopes to free up other officers to solve or prevent actual crimes.

Of course, the number of crimes police prevent is forever an unknown. Maloney quoted Hagerty as once telling him, “We never know the crimes we prevent.”

Maloney mentioned a woman who came into the department a couple of years ago and asked to speak with “Officer Mike,” the name he went by years ago as a resource officer at Rosedale School. As a student at the school, she’d gotten to know and trust him, and when she needed an officer’s help, she came to him.

“That’s why I became a cop,” he said, and then, restating Hagerty’s maxim, added, “We never know the impact we have. I want to create an atmosphere where everybody [in the department] can go out and create that impact, can be trusted to do the right thing and provide that kind of help.”