Police chief calls it quits

No pressure exerted, city manager insists

THINGS CHANGE Chico Police Chief Mike Efford, who announced his retirement last week, found that, with all the politics in this town, the top cop sits in the hot seat.

THINGS CHANGE Chico Police Chief Mike Efford, who announced his retirement last week, found that, with all the politics in this town, the top cop sits in the hot seat.

Photo by Tom Angel

Through the ranks: Before he became chief in Sonora, Efford spent 17 years on the Carson City, Nev., police force.

Flushed out by a story in a local weekly, Chico Police Chief Mike Efford announced May 16—about a week before he planned to do so—that he will retire Aug. 1 from the office he’s held less than three years. He will, however, stay on through Halloween and to the end of the year as the city once again searches for a new chief.

The day before the announcement, Tim Bousquet reported in his online version of the Chico Examiner that Efford was being forced to retire by an unhappy City Council and more than a few disgruntled police officers. On Friday the Chico Enterprise-Record, following its policy of not naming any other local papers, referred to Bousquet’s accusations as rumors and tried to dispel them.

City Manager Tom Lando, who in effect hires the police chief, said Bousquet’s story went “a couple steps too far” and that nobody was forcing anybody to do anything.

“Mike’s done a good job,” Lando said, adding the amiable and gradual retirement agreement between the city and Efford proves there are no hard feelings.

This week a relaxed-looking Efford said during a break in the City Council meeting that the job proved “very tough.” He plans to stay in Chico, he said, where he still has a daughter attending Chico State University.

“I might look for something in the private sector, maybe teaching,” he said. “My wife and I really like this town and feel very comfortable here.”

A few months back, Efford made the surprise announcement that he had applied for the vacant position of Chico State University police chief, a job generally seen as much less stressful than the city equivalent. But before that hire was made, Efford withdrew his application. At that point, questions about Efford’s future with the city were raised.

During his tenure, Efford increased the number of sworn officers by a dozen and gained a number of state and federal grants for law-enforcement-related programs. Efford also brought mounted police units for use at special events and bought some new Harley Davidson motorcycles for traffic patrol.

When he was hired in 1999, he told the News & Review that getting hired here was “the best thing in my 26 years in law enforcement.” The photo above was taken this week.

Photo by Tom Angel

He has also reportedly recruited as many as 200 extra California Highway Patrol officers for this fall’s Halloween.

Efford was hired out of the tiny town of Sonora, after the city’s first pick for the job changed his mind at the last moment. Efford replaced interim Chief Jim Massie, who filled in after the departure of the popular Mike Dunbaugh, a man credited with modernizing the force in his five years on the job. Dunbaugh left Chico in 1998 to become chief in Santa Rosa, where he is said to be about to retire.

Lando said the city would first talk with officials in the city of Roseville, which recently went through the process of hiring a new chief, to see if there are any strong candidates to recommend. If not, it will hire a firm to conduct a search, though not Shannon Davis and Associates, the company that found both Efford and Dunbaugh.

“Nothing against Shannon,” Lando said. “We just want some new blood.”

Sources inside county law enforcement said that normally the Chico police chief naturally evolves to become one of the leaders among a loose-knit fraternity of cops but that in this case Efford "just kind of disappeared and we never heard from him." Another source said Efford was "never a good fit" in the Chico department and was inconsistent with the messages he would send to agencies and personalities in local law enforcement.