Police chief to retire: After 3 decades, back to being a civilian | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Police chief to retire: After 3 decades, back to being a civilian

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune/ South Lake Tahoe Police Chief Don Muren is retiring.

South Lake Tahoe Police Chief Don Muren has announced his retirement after nearly three years fighting criminals and budgets.

Muren, 49, will step down July 7. City Manager Dave Jinkens said a recruitment for replacements, including those statewide and across the country, will go out in the next 10 days.

Jinkens had many kind words for Muren, who became chief after a selection process when Brad Bennett retired.

“He is one of the most effective chiefs of police that I have had the privilege to work with,” Jinkens wrote in an e-mail. “He is community minded, intelligent, extremely capable, cares about the department and its future, (is) a professional and a good budget manager. I will miss Chief Muren and his participation in the city’s leadership team.”

Lt. Terry Daniels, one of three who filled lieutenant positions in a staff reorganization structured by Muren to save city money, said Muren faced trying times.

“He was chief through the most difficult budget cuts our city has ever seen,” Daniels said.

Through reorganization, retirements, frozen positions, transfers, grant money and other strategies, Muren was able to weather the budget storm.

Muren said he had 49 full-time officers as his staff when he started his post. The number has been reduced to 40 full-time officers. The department’s budget is $6.8 million compared to $6.3 million when he started as chief but takes more nowadays in the areas of workers’ compensation and health insurance.

During those three years no person was fired.

“I know he’s very proud of that,” Daniels said.

“The police department is running more efficient and leaner today than it ever has,” Daniels added.

Muren believes he was hired because of his knowledge of budget issues. He also highlighted some of his other accomplishments, such as increasing drunken driving arrests, interviewing vendors to place computers in patrol cars by May, recreating an upcoming summer motorcycle traffic unit, redesigning patrol cars and taking on new responsibilities such as code enforcement.

“The chief works way too hard now,” Muren joked.

Another resource the department will get soon is a mobile command center used to disseminate information during SWAT deployments and natural emergencies, among other situations.

Muren has been with the department since 1989 but worked for the Escondido Police Department from 1978 to 1989. He said there were two days between jobs when he wasn’t a law enforcer.

In some ways, he has been the stereotypical chief of a small-town department. Once he cleared weeds from fire hydrants along Venice Drive in the Tahoe Keys. Other times he has been heard shouldering dispatcher duties.

At least two big cases, still open, occurred during Muren’s tenure. One was the January 2005 unsolved murder of Joel Bravo in an apartment complex in the Bijou neighborhood. Another involved the death of real estate agent Jeff Bursha, found when his house burned on Park Avenue in summer 2004. Investigators ruled the fire arson.

Muren forecasted the department would continue to battle budget issues. In addition, recruiting officers could pose a problem with Tahoe’s high cost of living. Muren said when he tested for the South Lake Tahoe job, about 250 others tested with him. In December, when a position became open, only 12 people tested, he said.

“I just hope that if nothing else, people just appreciate it was a difficult time for the police department and we came through it A-OK,” Muren said. “I think we do a pretty good job.”

Daniels, who has been with the department for 23 years, said he would apply for the position. Lt. Marty Hale said he would read the requirements for the job and then decide whether to apply. Hale has been with the department for 19 years. Lt. Martin Hewlett could not be reached for comment.

“It should be a healthy competition,” Daniels said.

Jinkens wished for a speedy selection process.

“I want to complete the recruitment in advance of his retirement so that the new chief will have a chance to consult with chief Muren before he departs,” Jinkens said.

Muren said he won’t go into real estate like other police retirees. He doesn’t have a plan just yet but it seems to suit him fine.

“I don’t know what I’ll do but I’ll do something,” he said.

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