New chief returns to roots

Campus officials have finally settled on a new police chief—and she’s a Chico State University graduate. Oh, and she’s a former Olympian who was once pictured on a Wheaties box.

Leslie Deniz, currently a lieutenant in the Yuba City Police Department, accepted the job April 8 and is expected to start leading the University Police Department at the end of May. Former Chief Mike Minard retired in December 2000, and the school has been looking for a replacement ever since.

Deniz said she has long held a goal of becoming a chief. She and her family moved to Chico two years ago. “It is neat to be able to come back. I am really excited to be working with the community. I want to have an atmosphere on campus where students have academic freedom and expression, yet they have a sense of security and safety.”

At the last minute, Chico Police Chief Mike Efford withdrew himself from the running. A university search committee had narrowed the field down to three candidates.

Efford said in an e-mail interview, “During this period of months since I first submitted the application, I had plenty of opportunity to take another look at this very important decision in my life and simply decided that the challenges and opportunities afforded me at Chico P.D. outweigh those offered by CSUC.”

Deniz, who grew up in Gridley, said her approach to policing has always been one of problem solving and involving the community.

She said it’s a little soon to talk much about specific plans for the budget, or how to deal with special events like Halloween

Deniz graduated from Chico State in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in community service. She started with Yuba City the same year. Before that, she worked for Oroville’s police department for two years. She also holds a master’s degree in organizational management from the University of Phoenix.

To round things out, Deniz has quite the sports background. Her Olympics event was the discus in 1984, and she modestly admits that she stood alone on that Wheaties box.