Atwater names new police chief

A veteran officer and commander with nearly two decades of law enforcement experience has been named chief of the Atwater Police Department.

Samuel Joseph, 47, was sworn in as Atwater police chief Thursday at Atwater City Hall.

“I’m honored and grateful that (City Manager) Frank Pietro and the City Council have given me this opportunity,” Joseph told the Sun-Star on Friday. “I’ve always been extremely proud of the excellent and dedicated staff we have at the department and am excited for the chance to keep the department’s momentum going forward.”

Joseph spent more than five years as a lieutenant, acting as the department’s No. 2 man under Pietro, who served as both the city’s top administrator and police chief from 2011 until August, when he stepped down as chief and announced plans to retire at the end of the year. Joseph has been serving as interim police chief since August.

Joseph described Pietro as a mentor and a “great leader” who “saved this city and saved this department” from bankruptcy.

“His leadership and guidance has meant a great deal to me and I’m honored to have the opportunity to apply the lessons he’s taught me going forward,” Joseph said.

Pietro said Joseph’s advanced education, leadership experience and talent made him the best candidate for the job.

“He (Joseph) has all the skills and the ability needed to run that department and I’m very happy he’s agreed to accept the position,” Pietro said Friday. “His people skills inside and outside the department are a great asset. He’s particularly talented at conflict resolution and has great skills when it comes to settling disputes.”

Joseph inherits a department that has had deep budget cuts in recent years as a tough economy took its toll on the city of nearly 30,000, shrinking its police force from 34 sworn officers at one time to 28 positions now, two of which still need to be filled. Working with city leaders to beef up the department’s patrol numbers will be a top priority, Joseph said.

Atwater Mayor Jim Price called Joseph “a perfect fit” for the chief’s job, citing Joseph’s “excellent rapport with other officers,” and his knowledge of law enforcement, administration and the city of Atwater.

“He’s got all the experience, an extensive background in law enforcement, and he knows the city really well,” Price said. “I think he fits right in the with long tradition of Atwater officers who’ve risen through the ranks over years to become the top guy.”

Joseph has a bachelor’s degree in public administration, sociology and criminology and a master’s degree in behavioral science. He recently was accepted to an advanced leadership training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va.

The Atwater police chief’s salary ranges from $109,581 to $139,857 per year, according to city records.

Joseph, as of Friday, had not signed his new contract. That could happen as early as Monday.

Rob Parsons: 209-385-2482