Friendly, transparent, engaging, strong and culturally competent, were all traits that Rohnert Park residents said they want to see in the city’s next public safety director and despite a low turnout at the city’s community forum Monday evening, many people were vocal in what they want for the future of the public safety department, which hangs in the hands of a new director yet to be chosen by the city.
Around 50 or so gathered in the recreation room at 6 p.m. to provide input for the city’s search for a new public safety director and Gary Peterson, president and CEO of Public Sector Search and Consulting was present to lead the group in a productive Q and A session.
After thoughts and opinions were garnered from the intimate crowd, the overarching theme of the evening was that residents, many who were longtime RP natives, want a new leader who is both friendly, yet tough (someone who will be willing to stand up to the city if need be), ethical and one who reaches out to not only the community, but the youth as well.
Many believe there currently isn’t enough community outreach despite the occasional coffee with a cop event. Residents said in years past, officers were better at outreach, attending functions, walking around town and advocating for neighborhood watch programs.
They also believe in order to be successful in the department the future director needs a full confidence vote from the rank and file (Former Director Brian Masterson had received a no-confidence vote of 36-6 last year, calling for his dismissal), a desire to collaborate and to be visible within the community.
Peterson helped attendees come to their conclusion by asking them a series of questions and extrapolating clear answers.
“We want to get your thoughts and opinions down and your input is vital in this search. Your information will be used in this search and we will use it in our marketing materials so that we can recruit a director that reflects your thoughts and ideas,” Peterson said.
RP City Manager, Darrin Jenkins, who will be interviewing candidates and pick a contender, echoed Peterson’s sentiment, saying both city staff and community input is important.
“We really believe in obtaining input from the community about what you want to see in the next director of public safety of Rohnert Park,” Jenkins said.
The first question Peterson asked was “What personal qualities do you think are the most important for the next leader of the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety?”
The overwhelming response was to be approachable and friendly; however, one resident mentioned that being friendly goes both ways — both officers and residents should be courteous to one another.
Other people chimed in with ideas, such as better communication, sensitivity to diversity, politically savvy, responsive, moral and transparent.
One RP Resident, Gary Coffman, said he came to the forum to provide input since he was not happy with the last director.
“I was not impressed with the last chief, I don’t think he was very open,” Gary said.
Sandra Gylfe, a local business owner and resident, said she hopes the next director would be willing to listen to resident input.
“I would just want somebody to listen to the public and really take it into account,” Gylfe said, who also mentioned she was interested in hearing what other people have to say.
Peterson’s next question touched on what the public would want the director to bring to the public safety department and the major response was to rebuild trust within the community.
One resident also mentioned that he would like stronger police presence in shopping centers due to recent car break-ins and store robberies, like the one that occurred at A&L Market on E. Cotati Drive.
David Pearson, an M section resident and coordinator for the Sonoma State, Rohnert Park communication services, was more interested in emergency communication services and what a new director could bring to the table that might affect the emergency response sector.
Another factor he wants the new director to bring to the job is confidence.
“I think, as a military member, you have to have confidence in the people and if you don’t have that, you are going to have a difficult time, so I think that is the one thing I would like to see,” Pearson said.
One of the more talked about questions was, “What should the top priority for the next leader of the department of public safety be?”
And again, the overwhelming answer was visibility within the community; however, others suggested the number one priority should be to raise department morale and update their policies.
With all of this in mind, the next step for the city will be to create a recruiting campaign and also gather input from city officials on what they want to see for the city.
In the meantime, Interim Director of Public Safety, Jeffrey D. Weaver, former chief of police for the City of Sebastopol, will fill in the role of director until a permanent director is selected.