The Anaheim City Council Tuesday will vote on whether to appoint Jorge Cisneros, the chief of the University of California, Irvine police department, as Anaheim’s new police chief, filling a position that has been vacant since former chief Raul Quezada stepped down last October.
Before his position at UCI, which he held for three years, Cisneros was chief of police for five years at the city of Huntington Park, which has a population of 59,000. Cisneros also served as Acting City Manager for 11 months, and prior to that, was with the Long Beach Police Department for nearly 20 years.
Cisneros earned a master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Chapman University and Bachelor of Architecture degree from the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He currently is vice president of the Orange County Chiefs’ of Police and Sheriff’s Association, according to a city staff report.
If the contract is approved as written, Cisneros will assume the position in mid-July with a $267,000 annual salary.
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said in a June 15 telephone interview Cisneros rose to the top after a “lengthy, professional and fair” selection process.
Asked about Cisneros’ lack of experience leading a large department, Tait said “I think leadership translates from a small city to a big city.”
“I think he will be an excellent chief,” Tait said.
The position is at-will, meaning Cisneros could be let go without reason. If Cisneros is terminated or asked to resign, he will be entitled to severance equal to six months pay, provided he isn’t terminated as result of a felony conviction, dishonesty or other wrongdoing.
The city has sought to fill a number of major leadership roles in the past year after legal settlements and high-profile departures.
Quezada resigned in October 2017 in exchange for a $750,000 payout to settle claims of an “intolerable” working environment, and amid calls by the police rank-and-file union for his departure.
Quezada was appointed in 2014 and became the city’s first Latino police chief, a response to protests and unrest after two police-involved shootings in 2012 that killed young Latino men.
The city has since faced criticism from local activists and an American Civil Liberties Union report for a high rate of deaths from police-involved shootings, although city officials have disputed the ACLU report.
Quezada was also criticized by activists for allegedly lying about the police response to a Ku Klux Klan rally at Pearson Park in 2016, although an internal city investigation later cleared him of wrongdoing.
Quezada took home $216,442 in salary in 2017 or $398,056 in total compensation when benefits are included, according to Transparent California, although that figure doesn’t reflect his full compensation because Quezada resigned in October.
In 2016, Quezada received $250,950 in salary for a total compensation of $365,838.
Deputy Chief Julian Harvey served as Acting Chief in the interim since Quezada left, and was supported by the police union in his application for the permanent position. Harvey was not selected by a panel to advance as one of the three final candidates, who were interviewed by a panel including the city manager.
“I’ve always been a fan of Julian Harvey and he did an excellent job as acting chief,” Tait said.
The police chief is appointed by the city manager, who makes a recommendation to the City Council. The council then votes to approve an employment contract.
The council currently is searching for a new city manager, after former City Manager Paul Emery was forced to resign last July by a majority of city council members. City Clerk Linda Andal was appointed as Acting City Manager.
A new city attorney, Robert Fabela, began work in April. The previous city attorney, who was the father of an aide to former Councilman Jordan Brandman, was fired by the city council after the November 2016 election, after less than two months of work. Fabela’s contract includes a clause that prevents him from being terminated within three months of a city council election.
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