Sebastopol’s new police chief Kevin Kilgore responded to questions from members of the public at a meet-and-greet on Zoom April 8.
Kilgore replaced Interim Police Chief Donald Mort last month, six months after former Acting Sebastopol Police Chief Greg DeVore stepped down from his position amid a former female police officer’s allegations of sexual harassment and workplace discrimination.
Chief Kilgore started the event by speaking on his personal and professional history. Kilgore is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, where he attended Miami University of Ohio to earn an associate’s degree in sociology.
Kilgore said he was relieved when he didn’t get into a physical therapist program his parents wanted him to enroll in.
“It was great for me, because what I really wanted to be was a police officer. It was not great for my mom—she was very nervous about me being a police officer,” Kilgore said.
Kilgore then began his career in law enforcement, working for three years as deputy sheriff in a county north of Cincinnati. Following that, he spent six years as a municipal police officer in a small suburb (slightly larger than Sebastopol) in Hamilton County.
In 2006, at 30, Kilgore’s husband moved to Los Angeles to attend medical school at UCLA. Kilgore followed and joined the UCLA police department, where he spent the majority of his career up until now, save a few years at UC Santa Barbara.
Kilgore went back to school while working full time as a police officer, earning a bachelor’s at night school and master’s degree at 40.
Kilgore’s experience includes serving on the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games public safety committee (during which UCLA will become the Olympic Village), the Anti-Defamation League’s Law Enforcement Advisor Committee and UCLA’s Administration Communications Council. He has been honored with the Distinguished Service Award at UCLA and a medal of valor by then-Attorney General Kamala Harris.
“I am extremely happy to be here. It is certainly a different environment to work in, but it is a welcome environment to work in. I am thoroughly enjoying my first month working here, learning the city, getting to know business owners and residents, getting the time to talk to you all. I’ve spent a bunch of time walking the business district, sitting down for lunches, getting to know people. I’m very, very happy to be here,” Kilgore said.
During the question and answer section, Kilgore engaged with the public on several local and national issues regarding policing, including the following:
Mathematics lecturer and frequent critic of police spending in Sebastopol Kyle Falbo asked Kilgore about what he said was excessive spending on police.
“The last two fiscal years, we’ve seen the city in the red, with the expenditures on policing making up half of the budget. Sebastopol’s per capita budget on policing is higher than any other city in the county,” Falbo said.
Kilgore responded that he would approach budgeting issues, in which he is experienced, objectively, however, he stressed that there is a cost to public safety. He also defended the number of Sebastopol police officers—12 not including the chief and lieutenant—as an appropriate number for a city with the population of Sebastopol.
Similarly, Kilgore said that competitive salaries are necessary to ensure adequate recruitment and retention of officers.
“Unfortunately, all of our safety services come with a cost. It’s expensive to keep places and cities and people safe,” Kilgore said.
Several members of the public asked about a variety of topics under the umbrella of police reform.
Kilgore said having social workers, mental health crisis response teams and homeless outreach advocates would be valuable to the department.
He said he would support such programs if the department received resources from county or state programs.
“I do think there are better equipped people to handle mental health and homelessness issues. I think it’s important that we have that expertise,” he said.
In the meantime, Kilgore said the department is trained in de-escalation tactics and will continue to emphasize de-escalation while responding to calls.