Paso Robles soon could have a new police chief

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comJune 17, 2013 

Robert Burton

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

After two national searches, the Paso Robles Police Department might finally get a permanent police chief Tuesday night.

The Paso Robles City Council plans to discuss appointing a police chief in closed session.

City Manager Jim App told The Tribune on Monday that “it’s a definite possibility” that a new chief would be hired by the end of Tuesday night’s meeting.

If the council fills the position in closed session, the city is expected to make an announcement late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning. The closed session occurs after the council’s regular meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m.

Last month, The Tribune reported that interim chief, Capt. Robert Burton, was among two finalists vying to head the police department, which has been without a permanent leader since the last chief resigned in 2012 in the midst of a scandal.

The other finalist is Gene Markle, who worked in law enforcement in the Pacific Northwest, but not much has been made public about his application. Markle could not be reached for comment.

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

The city 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 right before he was to take the helm. Guaderrama's arrival was expected to heal a shaken community and police force that has been searching for a new chief since April 2012, when former Chief Lisa Solomon resigned amid sexual harassment and ticket-quota allegations.

Burton was second-in-command to Solomon. When she left, App asked him to fill the interim post. Burton didn’t apply for the job in the first search, saying he wanted to be a police chief one day but first planned to put his energy toward healing the department in the months going forward.

During his oversight in Paso Robles, Burton received heat from the department early on when the city hired a supervisor instead of more patrol officers. Since that time, however, he also led the department in hiring several new patrol officers and established the department’s own gang and drug enforcement team.

Last month, the Paso Robles Police Officers Association — the union for officers, sergeants and dispatchers — declined to disclose who moved forward in the police chief selection process but said in a statement that its members were happy with the top candidates in the search.

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