By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
After more than three years with a temporary leader, Petaluma has hired a permanent police chief.
Patrick Williams, police chief since 2007 in the Southern California city of Desert Hot Springs, has accepted an offer to lead Petaluma’s
department, said City Manager John Brown. He fills the position Danny Fish has held on an interim basis since April 2009.
Williams, who has been in policing for three decades, is expected to begin Aug. 13, pending completion of a background check.
Williams was chosen from among 41 candidates for the job, including Fish and Petaluma Lt. Dave Sears, who were finalists for the $186,000-a-year job.
Desert Hot Springs is a fast-growing spa city of about 28,000 people 10 miles north of Palm Springs.
Williams, who was paid $202,000 a year in Desert Hot Springs, became the tenth police chief in 10 years when he took over that city in June 2007.
According to a Los Angeles Times story in 2009, the city began turning the corner on a rampant crime problem. For years the the town was one of the poorest and most crime-ridden communities of its size in what is commonly referred to as the Inland Empire. In 2006 it topped the list as the region’s most dangerous city among those with populations of less than 100,000, according to the newspaper.
Williams oversaw a department of 34 sworn officers and about a dozen volunteers. He has been recognized for his community-based policing philosophy, reducing crime rates, improving residents’ quality of life and for securing funding for public safety, Brown said.
In addition to leading the police department, Williams served as assistant city manager for public safety-related services.
“Chief Williams’ experience is tailor-made for what we need in Petaluma,” Brown said, noting Williams’ versatility and administrative experience.
Williams previously was a captain in Lompoc, where he oversaw gangs and narcotics enforcement, the dispatch center and the jail. From 1999 to 2002, he served on the San Jacinto City Council while working at the Palm Springs department.
Williams, who couldn’t be reached Thursday for comment, said in a statement he was humbled to have been selected.
“The men and women of the Petaluma Police Department have established a reputation for their professionalism and dedication to the community, and as the police chief I am committed to continuing the great level of service the department provides,” he said.
In March 2009, Williams led a multi-jurisdictional gang sweep of Riverside County, with a focus on Desert Hot Springs, that involved about 700 officers from 35 agencies and resulted in about 150 arrests. He also led successful tax measures in 2009 and 2010 that were expected to generate $40 million for Desert Hot Springs public safety.
In Petaluma, the police chief is responsible for the city’s largest single department with a budget of $14.4 million and just under 100 employees including sworn officers and civilian staff.
One of his first tasks in Petaluma will be finding room in the budget room for his salary.
Since Fish has been filling in, the chief’s salary has been banked, amounting to more than $600,000. Fish will return to the next lowest rank and pay, that of a lieutenant.
Fish said he was pleased with Williams’ diverse experience and proud to see that Petaluma attracted a candidate of such high caliber.
“His list of accomplishments is outstanding,” he said. “I’m looking forward to meeting him and helping him transition.”
Fish sent a note to his staff Thursday saying he was “extremely proud of the organization” he’s been a part of for 23 years.
“I plan on staying here in and serving the department in any capacity I can to make it successful,” he said. “It’s been an absolute honor and pleasure.”
Paul Gilman, head of the Petaluma police union, said others in police circles speak highly of Williams.
“He is extremely well-rounded and well-respected and has done some very, very good things down there within a very difficult set of circumstances,” he said.
Williams has a masters degree in leadership from Saint Mary’s College, a bachelor’s from the University of Redlands and is a graduate of the FBI national Academy.
Williams and his wife have five children.
Contact Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or firstname.lastname@example.org.