Interim police chief in Paso Robles is a finalist for the job

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comMay 16, 2013 

Robert Burton

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

Interim Chief Robert Burton is among two finalists vying to head the Paso Robles Police Department, which has been without a permanent leader since the last chief resigned in 2012 in the midst of a scandal.

Burton and another man from out of state were interviewed for the position by the City Council late last month, several sources close to the process confirmed.

It is now up to City Manager Jim App to make the final call. It is unknown if App has made his choice, but sources confirmed the background check process has begun, which is the final stage of a five-month search for a new chief. The other finalist, Gene Markle, worked in law enforcement in the Pacific Northwest.

App and Burton declined to comment, though App said the city plans to announce its chief pick next month.

Sources were granted anonymity because the information was confidential.

The final in-depth background investigation and testing for the police chief position takes about six weeks.

Paso Robles re-launched its national search for a new police chief in January after former finalist Manny Guaderrama, a San Diego Police Department captain, unexpectedly withdrew his candidacy in December.  Guaderrama’s arrival was slated to heal a shaken community and police force that’s been searching for a new chief since April 2012, when former Chief Lisa Solomon resigned amid sexual harassment and ticket-quota allegations.

Burton, who didn’t apply for the job in the first round, has said he’s been working to heal the department and move it forward.

The latest search resulted in 43 candidates. Five people made it to a panelist interview stage, where they were vetted by local citizens appointed by the city council, police officers association members and top management representatives from the city.

The panelists were tasked with narrowing the pool to two top picks to be interviewed by the City Council. The final decision is up to App.

But before the City Council could interview the candidates, the first choice dropped out of the running, citing family matters. At that time, Burton was the runner-up. The council then interviewed Burton and Markle.

The Paso Robles Police Officers Association — the union for officers, sergeants and dispatchers — declined to comment other than to say in a statement: “We’re happy with the candidates and happy with the ones who were selected to move forward in the process.”

Paso Robles’ next chief will oversee the department’s budget and about 51 employees who serve a city of about 30,000 people.

The position pays up to $160,020 per year, excluding benefits.

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