Woman with a badge
Orland residents are taken with their new police chief, Paula Carr
Paula Carr is certainly the talk of Orland these days.
That was obvious as the city’s new police chief waited for her lunch order at a downtown steakhouse about a block from her office on Fourth Street.
Half a dozen or so diners greeted her on their way out of the restaurant on Monday (Feb. 8), just a week into her new assignment as Orland’s top cop. She’s the first woman to hold the post, and that fact isn’t lost on residents.
“I’m proud of ya,” said a man as he and a couple of other patrons left the restaurant.
Carr, dressed in full uniform, smiled and graciously thanked everyone who congratulated her, including a 96-year-old man who spent several minutes talking about his days as a local cattle rancher. The scene gave a glimpse into her future in Glenn County’s most populated municipality.
Accepting the job in this growing agricultural community of about 7,500 people means a loss of anonymity for the 49-year-old Carr, who has spent nearly a quarter-century in service to law enforcement, though never in such a high-profile position. In her first week, for example, she attended the Volunteer Fire Department’s spaghetti feed fundraiser and drew the winning numbers during a raffle for the high school’s sober grad night.
Carr foresees a lot more interaction with folks, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“You have a stronger program the more community involvement you have,” she said.
In fact, one of her tasks for the early part of the week was to prepare a short presentation she’d be giving during a meet-and-greet session at 6 p.m. today (Feb. 11) at the Carnegie Center—meeting place of the Orland City Council. Carr will take questions from the public during the gathering and share some of her goals for the Police Department, and she’s interested in the community’s ideas.
Among the top priorities she’s laid out for herself is to find alternative sources of funding for an understaffed Orland Police Department, composed of 10 full-time officers and two support staff. She’s already eyeing a grant that could help to fund a drug-intervention and awareness program for kids. Emphasizing that she believes that early prevention is key, Carr is prepared to do whatever it takes to get such a program up and running.
“If I have to go home at night and write the grant, I think it’s worth the effort,” she said.
Fortunately, she has experience in that realm. Carr took up that task during the latter part of her nine years spent as an officer at the University Police Department at Chico State, where she climbed to the rank of administrative sergeant. For hundreds of female college graduates, she is probably best remembered for her efforts to offer a specialized self-defense course designed for women called Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.).
Carr left UPD in 2005 to fill the role of deputy chief for the California Emergency Management Agency (formerly the California Office of Emergency Services), a job in which she coordinated law-enforcement mutual-aid activities for the entire state in emergency situations, such as Butte County’s disastrous wildland fires two years ago.
She was the first woman to hold the deputy-chief position with CalEMA, but in Chico she may be best remembered for another groundbreaking first. In 1988, at the Chico Police Department, where she had started her career in law enforcement a few years earlier, Carr was the first police officer to have a baby. Her superiors didn’t quite know what to do with that news at the time, but they worked it out by reassigning her from patrol to dispatch during the pregnancy.
Time flies. Her daughter is now attending UC Davis.
When it comes to being a role model, Carr pointed out that she strives to be one for all kids. She understands why people have been intrigued by her being the first woman to lead Orland’s police, but she appeared to downplay the milestone, noting that she’s among 17 other female police chiefs in the state.
“My true feeling about things is that I’ve spent much of my adult life in law-enforcement service, and through my knowledge and education and qualifications I’ve been able to achieve this post,” she said.
That’s definitely a sentiment Chico Police Chief Mike Maloney conveyed when talking about Orland’s pick. Maloney was part of a panel that interviewed and assessed a competitive cast of candidates, and he said there was no question among the group that Carr was the right person for the job.
Maloney noted one of Carr’s major strengths is her understanding of the inner workings of a wide array of law-enforcement agencies, from municipal to statewide. Her work at CalEMA, he said, will be a boon to the community she now serves.
“She’s got a level of experience that not only Orland will benefit from, but also Glenn County law enforcement,” he said.
Carr acknowledged that one of the keys to getting where she is today is perseverance. She said that it’s not always been easy, since police are often confronted by “the worst of the worst in people.”
Still, she said the reward is worth it.
“You make a positive influence on folks, and I think that’s why I’ve stayed in the job.”