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We expect a top-notch police chief

Posted: November 18, 2013 1:58 p.m.
Updated: November 18, 2013 1:58 p.m.

An important moment in Santa Clarita Valley’s history is at hand. With the retirement of Sheriff’s Department Capt. Paul Becker after serving our Sheriff’s Station since 2010, a new law enforcement leader will be selected.

The Sheriff’s Department captain who heads up the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station serves as the de facto police chief for both the city of Santa Clarita and the entire valley.

We know it must be a tough job, especially during times of fiscal belt-tightening that have characterized the last 10 years of Los Angeles County fiscal management.

We believe Becker has served our community well and that he will leave a positive platform of achievement upon which the next captain can build. Indeed, one Santa Clarita spokesman says he leaves “big footsteps to fill.”

The city is in a leadership position to select the next police captain — a process city manager Ken Striplin does not take lightly, said Gail Ortiz, communications manager for Santa Clarita.

For residents, it’s one of the most important decisions Striplin will make on our behalf.

But the city can only make a selection based on the handful of applicants that Sheriff Lee Baca provides.
And there we have some concerns. The Santa Clarita Valley is no longer a sleepy little backwater area — a point we’re not sure is always understood in the hallowed halls of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Headquarters in Monterey Park.

We are now the third largest city in Los Angeles County and one of the largest Sheriff’s Department contractors for law enforcement services.

Baca needs to recognize this and send Santa Clarita top-notch candidates for our police chief position who can reflect the importance of the Santa Clarita Valley within the county and within the Sheriff’s Department hierarchy of law-enforcement contracts.

We expect the city to interview candidates who:

- Recognize the importance of community policing in suburban areas such as ours and are prepared to build on the fine zone system that Becker put into place to achieve that end.


- Identify and fix broken systems within the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station as Becker did with the crime tip process that failed to work correctly upon his arrival. A major issue here is the crumbling Sheriff’s Department Station itself, which served the community effectively when erected in the 1970s but is now woefully out of date — not to mention unsafe. This is a major problem for this valley and will require a strong leader to address.

- Continue the captain’s role as a leader in the community. Becker was pro-active and attended community outreach events such as the town hall meetings hosted by Mayor Bob Kellar, putting his face out there to make the Sheriff’s Department more accessible to residents. Not all of his predecessors took such action.

- Bring all of the connections and resources of the county’s law enforcement department to protect and serve the residents of the Santa Clarita Valley. The person who fills this position, the new captain, must care about doing an effective job and embracing the community.

We call on Lee Baca to forward the best and the brightest of candidates to the Santa Clarita Valley. At this critical juncture in our history, we cannot afford any missteps or backslides.


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