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April 21, 2016     Beverly Hills Weekly
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April 21, 2016
 

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CHARGE Newly appointed BHPD Chief Sandra Spagnoli on law enforcement By Mina Riazi Thirty-three years is a long time in law enforcement. What spurred you to enter the police academy? I had a long history of community service prior to entering the police academy. I feel that giving back to the community that you live [in] is important. [While I was] growing up, my family always taught about giving back and working hard, and it seemed like a natural fit when I transitioned over to become a police officer. I had been working in the police depart- ment for many years as a volunteer and I also did parking enforcement for a couple years before becoming a full-time police officer. It was sort of a natural progression: I started as a vol- unteer, moved into parking enforce- ment and then became a reserve police officer for a very short time before becoming a full-time police officer in 1990. Tell us about the first police depart- ment you worked for. I worked in the City of San Carlos [on the San Francisco Peninsula] when I started as a police explorer, and it was small community. Much like Beverly Hills, [San Carlos] was community oriented, and we had issues such as traffic and burglaries. I liked the idea of a small-town community where you really got to know--not only the people that you worked with--but the community, and you got to understand the issues. I felt like you could really make a big difference policing in a small town. Even one police officer can make a big difference in a small town. The larger the city, the harder it is to make a difference. I grew up in San Carlos and, having been part of the community for so long, it was a natural transition to serve the com- munity as a police officer. You previously worked in the cities of Benicia and San Leandro. How do those cities compare to Beverly Hills? The cities of Benicia and San Carlos were two very small communities: very community oriented, ,very small towns, and obviously both invested in their police departments. If you compare and contrast those two com- munities, they were very similar in the ways they policed; they were very similar in the policing issues they were fac- ing; and also, the demograph- ics of the com- munity. With a population of almost 90,000, San Leandro was a far big- ger city than the last two cities I worked in. The issues were very dif- ferent. The polic- ing issues, when you're next to the City of Oakland-- which has always been,among the top 10 most violent cit- ies in the United States-- were very, very different. There were parts of the community that I was attracted to because it had a small-town feel, and beautiful, tree- lined residential streets, but it had some bigger policing issues that I had the skill-set to face. Working for three different cities, for me, cre- ated more diversity. I dealt with more issues both internally and externally. As an administrator, to have different experiences and different challenges makes you grow and develop. Both internally and externally, I bring those experiences to the City of Beverly Hills, which I think is a good match. "For me, keeping the community informed is a really important part of community policing. When you look at Beverly Hills, obviously community and police partnership is a priority." department. My way [of doing this], in the communities I worked in, was [sending] information out through Nixie, which is community alerts and information. We have a version of Nixie here--there are interactive ver- sions of the product. I've also done crime mapping and posted those to our website; I've introduced a daily activity log to provide community members with an idea of what's hap- pening in the community and the out- come. So, rather than call the police to say, "Hey, what happened on Rodeo?" [an individual] can go to the log and [learn] that it was a medical call or a disturbance. For me, keeping the com- munity informed is a really important part of community policing. When you look at Beverly Hills, obvi- ously com- munity and police part- nership-is a priority. So, [this entails] using tech- nology as a force multiplier by adding license plate readers in the car, which we have here; enhancing our services in our emergency communica- tions center by transitioning over to E 9-11 and accept- ing cell phone calls; we're also looking at "text 9-11" where people can text information. Finding out the current technology and using that to basically do better policing is what I have experience in. Tell us about how you enhanced the delivery of police services through technology. People want to know about what's happening in the community; people want to be in touch With the police stay on top of case decisions, technol- ogy, issues internally and externally. Communities demand partnership more than they have ever before; they also demand transparency. The Public Records Act in itself has changed the demands at the executive level to provide information to the public to [promote] transparency but also to protect people who are reporting or victims of crime. So there's a balance. Cell phone cameras have changed the way we do policing. Though video is great to document both police and community interaction, the problem with video is [that] it's a moment in time and point of view and sometimes doesn't tell the entire story. I think we jump to the conclusion that the video is going to answer something, and that's not always the case. The demands have changed on the execu- tive level. What's at the top of your priority list? As you know, the City completed the Management Partners report and completed most of the items. Probably the three main outstanding items are strategic planning, succession plan- ning, and then also hiring and recruit- ment. So those are the three areas that I'm looking at. I'm working to get to know staff internally; I'm working to get to know the community and City Council and other city departments as well. When I look at the big picture, the community has been very wel- coming and setting a direction as a permanent chief is a priority. [Another priority] is getting to know all the great restaueants we have in this city. Before helming the San Leandro police department, you were police chief of the Benicia police depart- ment for four years. How has the role of a police chief evolved over the past decade? I think the challenges in policing are changing ever year and I think that we're [entering] a time where com- munities are setting the bar very high for police departments. What I mean by that is that you always need to stay current on laws and technologies, but Tell us about your family. My husband [Paul] is a police lieu- tenant working for the City of San Jose; he is a lieutenant in charge of homicide. I have an 18-year-old son who's getting ready to go out of state for college for six years. We have lived in the Bay Area all our lives. I'm the oldest of eight children: four boys and four girls, and a lot of them are in law enforcement. In my spare time, I enjoy running--I've run a couple marathons and my best time was 4:02. My family has always been supportive of my career goals and supportive of me continuing to move forward and fulfill some of the things that I want to do professionally. What are you most excited about? I'm most excited about coming to a department that has a great reputation and making it a better place and taking now things changing so rapidly it to thenext level. at the exec ive level, You need to , - : : April 21: April 27, 20! 6 ,Page 9