By Andrea Adelson | LB Indy
Police Chief Paul Workman, 60, retires this month after five years in the department’s top job and a 38-year police career devoted solely to Laguna Beach.
“As a young man, I could have never imagined that I would have had the opportunities that Laguna Beach provided me,” said Workman, who started as a reserve police officer in May 1975 and was hired as a full-time police officer the next year after he put himself through the police academy.
Along the way, Workman earned promotions through the department’s top ranks, including 15 years as captain, until his appointment to the top job in 2009 after eight months as the interim chief. He succeeded Mike Sellers, the first outside hire in years, who departed for a similar post in Fullerton where his career ended prematurely in the aftermath of a police beating scandal.
“Chief Workman has done an outstanding job managing the police department and putting together an exceptional team dedicated to serving the community,” City Manager John Pietig said in a statement. “We will miss Paul’s leadership and his historic knowledge of the department and the community.”
Without open recruiting, former City Manager Ken Frank appointed Workman, who came in second to Sellers. Department heads are hired at the city manager’s discretion. By contrast, Pietig, who succeeded Frank in December 2013, signaled that open recruitment will begin immediately for the chief’s job.
“You want to get what’s best for the community,” said Workman, though he fully expects the department’s senior commanders to compete for the job.
The department’s top brass, captains Darin Lenyi and Jason Kravetz, supervise field and investigative divisions, respectively. Unlike their boss, they both have master’s degrees. But like Workman, they’ve pursued professional development with management training offered by the FBI and the California Peace Officers Standards and Training command college.
“I appreciate their dedication. They work very, very hard. If they can get that across in the testing process, they’re going to be hard to beat,” Workman predicted.
Neither commander would comment about their interest in the job, which Workman describes as consuming and layered. The job requirements include an ability to interpret and apply case decisions, empathy to counsel people with drug dependencies and anger management deficits as well as sleuthing. “The better educated you are, the better you can perform,” said Workman, whose own management style was nurtured with lessons on ethics and professionalism by former Chief Neil Purcell.
Laguna’s police chief earns $192,700, matching the pay of the fire chief and assistant city manager. The chief supervises 47 sworn officers and 40 civilians, including the animal services division. The department’s $14.6 million budget comprises 21 percent of the city’s total $72.2 million budget in 2014, city budget documents show.
“The city should be interested in a chief who wants to build a better mousetrap, a chief that is interested in innovation and being a good steward,” said Jim Bueermann, the former Redland’s police chief and president of the Police Foundation, in Washington, D.C., which supports research to improve police services.
Cities that recruit outside candidates often don’t spend enough time getting to know their prospects by questioning their peers where they presently work, Bueerman said. Cities that hire internally to avoid candidates without an appreciation for the local culture, sometimes fail to identify a leader that the force respects, he said.
“If the organization is running well and they have prepared internally, why would they go outside?” he asked, noting that the influx of tourists in Laguna — three fold the town’s resident population of 22,000 – means a small police force confronts complications of a city of 100,000.
Experience with special event planning, tourists and mentally ill homeless should be part of the toolkit, along with problem solving, ethical standards and forward thinking, Bueermann said. The de facto professional standards for police chiefs now includes a master’s degree, and graduation from the California Peace Officers Standards and Training command college or the FBI National Academy, he said.
The California Police Chief Association does not track its 329 member’s professional qualifications, said Executive Director Leslie McGill. “A good percentage have master’s degrees,” she said.
Prior to beginning his police career, Workman enlisted in the Air Force, working on auto-pilot gear on cargo planes at now-decommissioned Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino. He eventually earned a bachelor’s degree from Cal State Fullerton while working fulltime.
Workman will officially retire in August but may stay on in an interim capacity until his successor is appointed, the city manager’s statement said.
“I don’t have a career change in mind; I need to clear my head,” said Workman, who with his wife, Valerie, a former department clerk, are parents to three adult daughters from earlier relationships. “They take up a lot of time.”