Morro Bay police chief headed to Pacific Grove

Morro Bay police chief Amy Christey speaks at an October 2015 briefing about an officer-involved shooting. Next to her is Mayor Jamie Irons.
Morro Bay police chief Amy Christey speaks at an October 2015 briefing about an officer-involved shooting. Next to her is Mayor Jamie Irons. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Note: this story was updated at 7:30 p.m. to include City Manager David Buckingham’s comments.

After nearly four years leading the Morro Bay Police Department, Chief Amy Christey will be moving closer to the county she served for more than two decades when she takes over as chief of the Pacific Grove Police Department.

Christey was selected as the top finalist out of a pool of more than 50 candidates to lead the department in the city of roughly 15,000 people in the northern tip of Monterey County, according to a city news release.

Christey did not return requests for comment Tuesday.

City Manager David Buckingham said, “the city of Morro Bay is proud that Chief Christey has again been selected for an important position on the California coast. We wish her well.

“The city plans to hire an experienced interim police chief soon and then conduct a thorough, deep, nationwide search for our next, excellent chief of police,” he said in an emailed statement Tuesday evening.

Pending finalization of a formal background check and ratification by the Pacific Grove City Council, Christey is expected to begin the new position Aug. 16.

Christey was hired by Morro Bay in October 2012 after serving for 20 years with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office.

At the time, she was one of just 24 female chiefs of about 500 police departments in California, according to the California Police Chiefs Association.

“I’m very pleased that Chief Christey has accepted our offer,” Pacific Grove City Manager Ben Harvey said in a statement released Friday. “Chief Christey’s hands-on approach to community policing, her emphasis on customer service, her understanding of the needs of a small-town coastal community and her track record as a team player makes her a terrific fit for our police department, the municipal organization and the community.”

During her time with the Morro Bay Police Department, Christey built a reputation as a leader willing to roll up her sleeves, as well as one of a down-to-earth local who could regularly be found paddling out near Morro Rock on her surfboard before the start of her shift.

In December, Christey and Buckingham personally donned protective gear and led a team that collected and removed about 70 cubic yards of garbage, debris and other materials left behind in a homeless encampment near the Morro Bay Power Plant ahead of anticipated rough weather spurred by El Niño.

A month prior, Christey defended a Morro Bay police officer who shot and wounded a burglary suspect who struck the officer in the head with a large stick. A San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office investigation later found that the officer-involved shooting was justified. The suspect later pleaded no contest to felony battery.

In 2014, crime data showed that Morro Bay was, statistically speaking, the safest city in San Luis Obispo County, and the only local city that year with crime rates for serious crimes lower than rates in cities of similar size nationwide.

Salary information for Christey’s new position was not immediately available Tuesday.