When new Atascadero Police Chief Jerel Haley takes his post Nov. 14, he plans to sit down with educators, business leaders and others to talk about their needs, so as not to impose his ideas on the city.
Haley, bringing 20 years in law enforcement experience, comes from a lieutenant position at the Santa Maria Police Department where he oversees various departments and crime programs.
His police roots started with the Santa Cruz Police Department in 1991, where 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 and took over supervising roles in units for detective work, police dogs, gangs, narcotics and the crime lab.
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Haley will lead the Atascadero Police Department’s 28 sworn officers and an approximately $5.6 million annual budget.
The Atascadero City Council appointed him last week.
“I’m really looking forward to getting to know the men and women in the department and working with the community on setting the right priorities, rather than inflicting my (own) priorities,” Haley said.
The department has been without a permanent chief for nearly a year since former Police Chief James Mulhall unexpectedly left his position in January.
Mulhall’s sudden departure raised questions in the community after the city said he resigned to spend more time with family but later disclosed he received a $126,000 settlement. The reasons behind the mutual termination agreement were never disclosed.
Haley is contracted for an annual base salary of $136,942, but his actual salary will be less because Atascadero’s management opted to take between 1 and 3 percent pay cuts in June.
“Haley is expected to let the city know what percentage reduction he has chosen prior to his first pay check,” Administrative Services Director Rachelle Rickard said.
His voluntary pay reduction will then kick-in when his position begins.
Haley gets the same base salary as the former chief, but due to different employee union negotiations at the time of Mulhall’s employment, Haley will be making less than he did.
As of July 1, all sworn public safety employees in Atascadero began paying 4.7 percent of their salary toward pension retirement when public safety employees during Mulhall’s time didn’t.
Mulhall took a voluntary 3 percent pay cut in July of 2009, making his salary $132,833 at the time of his departure.
The actual take home pay between Mulhall and Haley likely differs even further because of employee-specific taxes and benefits paid by employees per paycheck.
Also in Haley’s contract are possible allowances for added compensation if he meets annual goals set by City Manager Wade Mc-Kinney during his time in Atascadero; use of a city vehicle with emergency equipment and a radio to take home since he will be on call 24 hours a day, although McKinney must approve any personal use of it; and the ability to attend, at the city’s expense, a “reasonable number” of local, state or national conferences relevant to his position with McKinney’s approval, according to his contract.
Interim chief Cmdr. Gesell, who did not apply for the permanent post, will now resume his commander position. Haley says Gesell has led the department well, and he looks forward to working with him. The family plans to remain in Santa Maria until June 2012 so his daughter can finish high school before they move to Atascadero, he said.
“I’m looking forward to being the chief that you see next to you at the local hardware store or grocery store, or the family you sit by at church. That’s the type of chief I want to be,” he said.