Police Chief Daniels to retire Dec. 31 | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Police Chief Daniels to retire Dec. 31

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Police Chief Terry Daniels announced Thursday that he will retire at the end of the month.

The city’s budget woes precipitated his decision to accept an early retirement offer, the Daniels, 52, said during a phone interview Thursday morning.

“What really stimulated it was the city’s budget is in trouble,” Daniels said. “If I retire there are some very good salary savings for the city.”

“I had originally planned to retire next year but, the city’s budget made me reevaluate my timing,” Daniels said.

The 26-year veteran of the police force said he hoped the savings will help prevent younger employees at the city from being furloughed or laid off.

On Thursday, Daniels said he was proud that the city’s police labor organizations have never filed an official grievance during his tenure and that complaints from the public about the department remain uncommon.

The police department averages between 35,000 and 36,000 calls for service per year and typically receives about 8 or 9 complaints, Daniels said.

“That’s really low percentage,” Daniels said. “What that speaks to is that (officers on the street) are doing a good job.”

But Daniels as tenure as police chief has been marked with controversy.

A 2008 grand jury report indicated Daniels displayed “conduct unbecoming a police officer” during a verbal altercation with a South Lake Tahoe resident in September 2006, just two months after becoming police chief.

This report also indicates a concern with a October 2007 survey of South Lake Tahoe Police Department staff. The survey was highly critical of police leadership and showed morale among employees at the department was extremely low.

Approval of a new contract for police officers and successful efforts to increase staffing levels have alleviated morale problems at the department, Daniels said Thursday.

Only one of the police department’s 44 allocated police officer positions remains unfilled, compared to the 8 or 9 positions at that went unfilled about two years ago.

“We have certainly had morale problems,” Daniels said Thursday. “We went through very difficult contract negotiations and during that period of time there were come very contentious personnel discussions. Those are behind us.”

Daniels pointed to a 10 percent drop in crime during the past year, a 20 percent increase in police productivity and a 20 percent decrease in response times as evidence of an effective department.

“Morale is a difficult thing to measure,” Daniels said. “I think it’s certainly a lot better than it was 2 years ago.”

City Councilman Bill Crawford isn’t so sure.

Crawford wished Daniels well during a phone interview on Thursday, but said morale issues persist at the police department.

“I hope that the city can get a handle on that problem and we do a better job,” Crawford said.

City Manager David Jinkens detailed the steps the city will take to replace Daniels in an e-mail to City Council members on Tuesday.

In the e-mail, Jinkens wrote he will immediately begin a process to recruit a new Chief of Police.

The process will include:

• Advertisements in state and national police publications

• Consultation with police association groups to see what they would like to see in a new chief

• Input from the from the City Council

• Convening a panel of outside law enforcement experts to assess candidates

• Convening of a city department director panel to assess candidates skills

• A thorough background check of candidates

South Lake Tahoe Police Capt. Martin Hewlett will serve as acting police chief until the city hires a permanent replacement for Daniels.

Daniels said he intends to spend time with his family during his retirement, while remaining active with the Police Athletic League and The Lake Tahoe Boys and Girls Club, where Daniels serves on the Board of Directors.

“I have enjoyed working for the police department for the past 26 years and I’m I thankful that the men and women here do an excellent job,” Daniels said. “Hopefully they continue to do that. I’m confident the best person will come in and make the department even better.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated at 8:48 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 10. It was originally published at noon, Thursday, Dec. 10.

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