Meet Your Police Chief
MEET YOUR POLICE CHIEFBy Sophie Johnson
Entering his fourth year on the force as chief, Chaplin has created a culture of collaboration and transparency in the Walnut Creek Police Department. Recently, the Governor appointed Chaplin to serve on the CA Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training—an honor bestowed on only a handful of individuals across the state.
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO WALNUT CREEK? I started in Law Enforcement when I was 20 and spent 12 years with the Sacramento Police Department, then went to the Department of Justice as a Special Agent for a few years. It was a great learning experience, but I missed municipal policing, so I joined the Citrus Heights Police Department in 2006. When the role of Police Chief in Walnut Creek opened up, it was 2013. I thought, ‘what a great job, what a great community!’
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF? During the first three months on the job, I met with every single department employee and volunteer to find out what we were doing well, what changes were needed, and where he/she wanted to take their career. From those conversations, I designed a big picture plan on how we fight crime—adding officers in schools, creating specialized positions and putting more officers on the streets. Subsequently, we have a police department that is engaging, challenging and fun. We are now attracting law enforcement professionals from all over the state.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT WALNUT CREEK? The quality of life for my family doesn’t get any better than in Walnut Creek. With well-regarded schools, a vibrant arts scene, great restaurants and shopping, all surrounded by open space, there is so much to do here! Our weekends feel like vacations with day trips to the beach or Sausalito or just a walk around downtown. It’s just a great place to live.
YOU’VE SAID THAT IN WALNUT CREEK, “YOU ARE SAFE, BUT YOUR STUFF IS NOT.” WHAT DO YOU MEAN? We had 8,000 more calls for service in 2015 than we did in 2014, and there’s been a slight uptick in crime this year, particularly property theft. The city is changing as we create more retail and commercial spaces which draws more visitors to the community for work or play. Keeping the city safe is my job. We have 79 authorized police officers dedicated to preventing crime. We also have a dedicated group of 25 trained volunteer Reserve Police Officers who assist the force, while also maintaining other jobs and family life.
DO WE NEED MORE POLICE OFFICERS AS OUR POPULATION GROWS? Over the next decade we need to add an officer a year, and take a look at our efficiencies so our department doesn’t impact the city’s general fund. We are mindful of our fiscal impact, and ask our community to also be aware and vigilant. Don’t leave your briefcase in a convertible!
MANY RESIDENTS BELIEVE THE WC HOMELESS POPULATION IS INCREASING. DO YOU AGREE? Walnut Creek is a great place to live and that applies to all, including the increasing transient population. Last year we averaged about 100 calls a month related to the homeless, now it’s about 150 a month. We are a caring community which treats people with dignity. Walnut Creek is not unique, and there is more homelessness overall, but it can feel disproportionate in this affluent community. Being homeless is not a crime, but calls to address homeless issues take away time from other concerns.
HOW DO YOU FEEL WHEN YOU SEE A NEWS REPORT ABOUT POLICE AND COMMUNITY CONFLICT? I feel sad. I don’t know of another profession that groups people together like law enforcement. If you have a bad meal at a restaurant, it doesn’t mean all chefs are bad cooks. But police get painted with a broad brush diminishing the great work in this profession. We have officers who are compassionate, courageous, and heroic. Do you know the disabled man who sells soap downtown? Sadly, he was a victim of fraud. A team of officers took up a collection bucket and presented him with $250.
HOW CAN OUR COMMUNITY HELP THE POLICE? As a community, there are two things you can do: engage in the complex dialog on homelessness and if you see an officer, show them you appreciate them. It’s a dangerous job and every time they go out, they don’t know if they’re going to see their families again. Every single positive interaction matters.HOW DO YOU STAY UPBEAT? I believe in making a difference. Every person was once a little boy or girl, with hopes and dreams for their family and the world in front of them. Then something went wrong. But that doesn’t mean it’s the end. There are moments when you hope the time you invest and the danger you confront as a police officer pays off by helping someone regain honor and dignity