Atascadero has chosen a new police chief: Jerel Haley, a lieutenant at the Santa Maria Police Department.
Hired from a pool of nationwide applicants, he will be responsible for the Atascadero Police Department’s 28 sworn officers and approximately $5.6 million annual budget.
The department has been without a permanent leader for nearly a year.
Haley is slated to start Nov. 14 with an annual salary of $136,942. That’s more than former police Chief James Mulhall’s salary of $132,833.
Mulhall resigned unexpectedly in January, and Cmdr. Steve Gesell has been serving as chief in the interim. He did not apply for the permanent post.
Mulhall’s departure raised questions in the community after the city released a statement saying he resigned to “spend more time with his family” and then two weeks later said he received a $126,000 settlement to leave. The reasons behind the mutual termination agreement were never disclosed.
In selecting a new police chief, city leaders wanted a qualified leader who would focus on creating stability within the department, Gesell said.
In his new role, Haley will also work on “developing and enhancing partnerships between the police department and the community, specifically within the schools and the business community,” according to the city.
An interview panel made up of local police chiefs, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson and local residents selected a handful of top candidates from 48 applications.
Haley’s employment contract was unavailable Monday because it was still being prepared for Atascadero’s Oct. 25 City Council meeting, where his appointment will be reviewed. The agenda packet with that contract will become public today, according to the city.
Haley’s police roots started with the Santa Cruz Police Department in 1991. There, he served as a field-training officer, an undercover narcotics investigator and a sexual assault detective. He also worked in the street crimes unit.
In 2000, Haley moved to the Santa Maria Police Department, where he took over a variety of supervising roles in the units for detective work, police dogs, gangs, narcotics and the crime lab.
Haley has been married to his wife Melissa — his high school sweetheart — for 24 years. They have two daughters, Jessica Washington, serving with her husband in the Air Force, and Kirsten Haley, a senior in high school, according to the city’s announcement.
Haley has a master’s degree in strategic leadership and a bachelor’s degree in administration of justice, both from Mountain State University in West Virginia. He also has an associate’s degree from Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria in administration of justice.Gesell will resume his commander position with the department.