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Merced city police veteran promoted to chief

SUN-STAR PHOTO BY MARCI STENBERG
City Manager John Bramble, right, announced Monday that Norm Andrade is the new Chief of Police for the City of Merced. Andrade is sworn in by Bramble Monday, August 24, 2009 afternoon inside Police headquarters.
SUN-STAR PHOTO BY MARCI STENBERG City Manager John Bramble, right, announced Monday that Norm Andrade is the new Chief of Police for the City of Merced. Andrade is sworn in by Bramble Monday, August 24, 2009 afternoon inside Police headquarters. Merced Sun-Star

Merced Police Department Cmdr. Norm Andrade was promoted Monday to chief, the first Latino officer to hold the position.

City Manager John Bramble swore Andrade in as chief in front of a crowd of council members, law enforcement officials and community leaders. He was given the chief's badge and took the law enforcement oath of honor.

"There's an old saying: 'Be careful of what you wish for,'" he said during a press conference afterward. "I think I got it."

Andrade, 55, is a 20-year veteran with the department who's risen through the ranks since he was hired as a police officer. After a two-month internal search, Bramble picked Andrade from a pool of six candidates, which included Cmdr. Floyd Higdon and four lieutenants. He will be paid $133,524, which falls in the middle of the pay scale.

Andrade will be charged with guiding the department through what will probably be some tough years. The city came close to laying off five officers this year. The officers kept their jobs once the city learned it would be getting $1.5 million in federal stimulus grants. If the national economy doesn't improve, further cuts may be necessary.

Bramble's choice remained a closely guarded secret. The City Council was told of his decision Sunday. The department was told Monday.

The police officer panel and the citizens panel both gave Andrade the highest ranking. Other law enforcement officials agreed that he was a wise choice.

"This will be the crowning jewel of a very accomplished career," Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin said.

Chief Russ Thomas retired in July after three years with the department. He's serving as the interim public works director and evaluating the department for inefficiencies.

Andrade, who spent most of the day in meetings, didn't say whether he has any big changes in store for the department. His management staff has been thinned down this year.

Under Thomas, the city had three commanders. One retired, and with the promotion of Andrade, there's only one left.

Andrade joined the department Jan. 30, 1989. He was promoted to sergeant seven years later to oversee the patrol division.

In 1999, he became the administrative sergeant, overseeing training, fleet management, public information and communications.

Chief Tony Dossetti promoted Andrade to commander in 2003. Andrade was in the running to be chief in 2006. City Manager Jim Marshall decided to hire Thomas away from the Fort Bragg Police Department.

Andrade said Thomas bolstered him during his time with the department. "Thomas helped grow me as a leader and a manager," Andrade said. "He let us look at the bigger picture."

Mayor Ellie Wooten said she's pleased the city looked inside for the next chief because the department has talented managers.

"Norm's the kind of man who picks things up quickly," she said. "He's a great choice."

Andrade said he plans to meet with the department's managers to work out a plan for what changes need to be made.

Reporter Scott Jason can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or sjason@mercedsun-star.com.

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