MODESTO — Modesto has named a veteran officer from Southern California as its next police chief.
The city announced Friday that Galen Carroll, a commander with the Long Beach Police Department, will start Jan. 8 as chief. His salary is $175,000. City Manager Greg Nyhoff will introduce Carroll at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
Carroll, 42, will replace Capt. Gene Balentine, who has served as interim chief since August, when Chief Mike Harden retired. Balentine, who was not a candidate for the job, will return to running the department's investigative services division.
Nyhoff said Carroll stood out among the six finalists for the job because of his integrity, intelligence and leadership. Nyhoff also was impressed with Carroll's ability to work with the community.
"If you want to be successful," Carroll said, "you have to have community involvement. And you just can't go to the community when there is a problem or something controversial. You need to develop and form a relationship long before that."
City leaders have emphasized community policing. For instance, Modesto is a leader among cities its size in the annual National Night Out program, which promotes close ties among neighbors and with the police.
Nyhoff wants Carroll to help the police forge closer and deeper bonds with businesses, neighborhoods and others. These relationships are invaluable for a police department hit hard by recession-driven budget cuts as it looks for innovative ways to fight crime.
In five years, the department has lost 20 percent of its officers, from 287 then to 229 today.
Nyhoff hopes the payoff for closer relations between the police and community is less crime.
Last year, Modesto ranked second in violent crime and first in property crime per capita among the 11 California cities with 175,000 to 250,000 residents, according to the FBI Unified Crime Reports.
Balentine, the interim chief, said Modesto has seen a double-digit increase this year in nearly every type of crime from last year. One example: burglaries are up 22.6 percent, from 1,707 last year to 2,092 this year. The crime statistics are for the first 10 months of each year.
The department also has new sergeants and lieutenants who were promoted to replace those lost to attrition. Nyhoff said they are excellent officers, but he will look to Carroll to mentor them.
"He understands the value of people and always understands the importance of working smart," Long Beach police Cmdr. Bob Luman said about Carroll. " People, they work hard for him not because they have to but because they want to."
The president of the Long Beach Police Officers Association echoed Luman. "I don't have issues coming from the divisions where he has been in charge," Lt. Steve James said. "He's just very well-respected here."
Carroll's assignments included nearly two years as commander of Long Beach's north patrol division, where he oversaw 128 officers who served the more than 120,000 residents of North Long Beach, an ethnically and economically diverse community similar to Modesto.
"I can take you to one part of the community where people are living in one-room bungalows and the homeless are living along the river," said Val Lerch, who represented North Long Beach on the Long Beach City Council from 2002 to 2010. "And then I can take you to another part of the community where people are living in $3 million homes."
Lerch, who also is a community activist, has seen the fruits of better relationships between the police and those they serve.
After about three dozen homicides in North Long Beach in 1992, he and others helped residents form community groups to work with the police. Lerch said the number of homicides is now down to about a half dozen.
He said Carroll understands the need to work with residents. "He's very much community orientated," Lerch said. "He's personable, and he's willing to work with people."
To take over at start of new year
Carroll has worked for Long Beach for more than 18 years. He has been an officer, sergeant and lieutenant. His assignments include field training, internal affairs, administration and investigations.
He served as north division commander until Dec. 1 and now is commander of the gang and violent crimes division. Carroll said he plans to work through the end of the year before taking the reins in Modesto.
Before joining the Long Beach police, Carroll worked for six months for the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
Nyhoff made the decision to hire Carroll after an extensive process that included using Bob Murray & Associates, a Roseville-based executive search firm, at a cost of no more than $24,000.
City officials have said about 30 candidates applied for the job. The candidates were narrowed to six finalists, who included three internal candidates. Finalists were interviewed by three panels, one composed of community members, one of Nyhoff's executive leadership team and one of police chiefs and sheriffs.
Officials with the Modesto Police Officers Association, which represents the department's rank-and-file officers, did not return phone calls Friday seeking comment.
Carroll said one reason the Modesto job is attractive is that it brings him and his wife closer to family. His wife has family members who live in the Modesto area. Carroll said he also felt at home as he met Modesto officers.
He plans to ease into his new job. "You really have to get to know the traditions and culture of the department you are coming into so you know how things are done and why."
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2316.
NEW POLICE CHIEF
NAME: Galen Carroll
EXPERIENCE: More than 18 years with the Long Beach Police Department and six months with the Orange County Sheriff's Department
FAMILY: Wife, Carlene
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in business management, University of Phoenix, 2001; master's degree in organizational leadership from Chapman University, 2003