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Petaluma picks police chief from Southern California



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

Patrick WIlliams (COURTESY PHOTO)

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 lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.

9 Responses to “Petaluma picks police chief from Southern California”

  1. GAJ says:

    I’m sure he’s a fine Policeman but dear lord, in his last job he supervised just 34 people and was paid $202,000!!!

    He’ll get 90% of that when he retires; $182,000!!

    Just think about that for a moment or ten.

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  2. Just Me says:

    Great, Petaluma just hired someone with 30 yrs experience…which means he’ll put in the required time here and then retire with a nice check. Great way to boost morale within the dept!

    On the other hand, sometimes it is necessary to bring in fresh blood from the outside to set things back in a positive direction.

    Best of Luck Chief Williams.

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  3. Snarky says:

    Chris: the police are merely the attack dogs of government. Since the local government spent much, much more money than it gets in taxes, it has to make up the difference somehow. The police clearly are acting merely as cash collectors for a corrupt governmental system. Of course, don’t expect them to reign in their officers who we see speeding without lights and siren even though thats illegal.

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  4. chris says:

    Yes, the city police have become overly zealous in prosecuting small petty traffic, DUI’s below the legal limit, and now bicycle tickets. I hope he can turn it around as it has really changed in the past 5 years for the worse. Glad he is from outside.

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  5. Missy says:

    He sounds great. Unfortunately the libtards who run Petaluma will hate him and call him a fascist & a racist within 2 months of his hiring.

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  6. BigDogatPlay says:

    I’ve been inquiring with some LEOs of my acquaintance from down desert way about Chief Williams.

    He is said to be straight shooter and a positiv disciplinarian (something PPD can use), and has a very strong background in both gang and narcotics enforcement (something the city can really use). Desert Hot Springs PD was something of a joke before he arrived there. It probably doesn’t help that the city enjoys a large population of parolees and probationers. The department was known for taking other agency’s castoffs, and they brought their problems with them.Chief Williams led the department out of that, and into the modern age. In the world of CEOs he would considered a turnaround expert.

    Exactly what Petaluma PD can use as the agency is rife with issues and is in the position of funding it’s equipment through forfeitures, checkpoints and traffic tickets.

    Depending on what kind of deferred comp he has negotiated for himself, h is taking a cut in base pay to come here. PPD is more than double the size of Desert Hot Springs PD and is not a well managed, stable agency. If Williams is coming for the challenge, I suspect he’s going to have a challeng.

    Until or unless he proves otherwise, I’m very much willing to give Chief Williams the benefit of the doubt.

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  7. John says:

    Moving from Desert Hot Springs to Petaluma and being a leader, he’ll quit in 6-months or less. Anyone who isn’t use to the liberal mindset won’t be able to stomach or tolerate their ways. I feel for him and his family.

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  8. Camino Alto says:

    Thank you City Manager John Brown for NOT choosing either Danny Fish or Pete Sears. The PPD needs a thorough housecleaning and this is a good start.

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  9. Over Easy says:

    This is the best news I have heard in a long time. It is about time the officers of the Petaluma PD have a leader who is a true professional with actual experience outside of Podunk.

    It wont be long and Fish will be gone. I’ll guess early retirement or permanent disability or some face saving measure.

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