Prove me wrong

I doubt our new police chief will stay beyond the point where his pension maxes out

Every now and then, on the date we go to print (or shortly thereafter), somebody makes a big announcement. Or, the you-know-what hits the fan. In this particular case, I’m referring to the recent appointment of Chico Police Capt. Mike O’Brien to the position of police chief. That announcement came last Thursday morning, less than 24 hours after this ink-stained wretch had put CN&R’s latest issue to bed.

If you read this space last week, you know that embattled former San Luis Obispo Police Chief Steve Gesell was rumored to be one of the finalists for the post of Chico’s top cop. The rumors were true. Gesell confirmed as much in a TV interview. He also said he pulled his name from the cast of candidates, giving this nebulous reason: “Chico has a lot of similarities to San Luis Obispo, and the last thing that I would want to put my family through again was some of the same scenarios that I have been through here.”

I have family in San Luis Obispo, and have visited that area on numerous occasions. But other than both places being college towns, the similarities are lost on me. Chico is about twice the size of SLO, population-wise. And, well, what I wouldn’t give for some of that coastal weather. I don’t know what Gesell is talking about, and I’m not sure I buy that he pulled his name out of the race at the eleventh hour. My guess is the guy is trying to save face after finding out he wasn’t getting the Chico gig. If he truly did back out last minute, it’s his loss. In either case, it sounds to me like Chico dodged the proverbial bullet.

We’ll probably never know what happened. Chico City Manager Mark Orme has been on lockdown about the hiring process, even hours before announcing that O’Brien was the chosen one. In fact, members of the Chico Police Department were sweating it right up until the time of the announcement. One of them called our office while we were on deadline to voice concerns about Gesell’s candidacy. Minutes later, another caller, this one anonymous, related the same info.

Which is to say, I’m pretty sure CPD’s staff let out a collective sigh of relief when O’Brien got the job.

So, what’s our new chief’s deal? Will he stabilize the department? Will he step up proactive enforcement? Will he rid the department of its bad apples? Time will tell, I suppose. Lucky for him, the cops’ union just agreed to a new contract with the city. That means he won’t have to deal with his employees and his bosses wrangling over wages, at least not for the next three years. Of course, that’s about the amount of time it will take for O’Brien to reach that threshold where he can retire at 90 percent of his highest salary for the rest of his life. That’s what happened with our last two chiefs, Mike Maloney and Kirk Trostle. Will O’Brien stay beyond that point? I doubt it. But I’d love for him to prove me wrong.