LIVINGSTON -- After going without a police chief for the past four months, the Livingston City Council on Tuesday night hired a longtime lawman as the city's new police chief.
Douglas Dunford, the head lawman in the city of Escalon, will take up the new post March 1.
Dunford has been police chief in that 7,163-population city in San Joaquin County since 2002 and will be taking over a police department approximately double the size of Escalon's.
"I felt I was ready for the next step and that was the city of Livingston," said Dunford, about the job which had 52 other applicants.
Livingston's City Manager Richard Warne said in a phone interview that Dunford was chosen because of his history of working well with city government and the community, as well as his law enforcement experience. "He has an extensive background in law enforcement over the years," said Warne.
Dunford, 53, has been in law enforcement since 1978. He started his career as a deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. He then worked as a police officer in Turlock and for the BNSF Railway for almost a decade. He was appointed chief of Escalon's police department in 2002. He is also the acting interim city manager of Escalon.
Dunford has a bachelor's degree in business management and a master's degree in leadership.
His pay will be $124,812, an increase of more than $10,000 from his Escalon job. His contract states that he is an at-will employee and can be fired without warning by the city manager. He is eligible for an eight month severance package in the event he is fired. He will undergo yearly performance reviews and is eligible for annual raises as well.
In a phone interview, Dunford described his management style as hands-off. He does not micromanage his officers and is a flexible and collaborative leader.
As for his approach with the public, Dunford said he is always desirous of the public's input. "I think they should understand that I'm open-minded, a good listener and I'm very approachable," said Dunford.
When it comes to police oversight, Dunford said that while he has questions about the ability of citizen advisory committees keeping watch over police, any reported wrongdoing by officers under his command will be fully investigated. He said that as a captain with BNSF he fired two people after investigations showed that one had lied and another had breached ethical standards, he said.
While he has not overseen any investigations of major crimes, such as murders, while chief in Escalon, Dunford has been involved in such investigations while working for the railroad as well as the Los Angeles department.
Since October, Lt. Sharon Silva has been the city's interim chief, filling in for former Police Chief Bill Eldridge while the city looked for his replacement.
Despite the council's unanimous passage of the resolution enacting Dunford's employment agreement, there was some minor dissent on the process of his hiring from Councilmember Rodrigo Espinoza. "That's what I'm opposing, the process," said Espinoza.
The resolution hiring Dunford was put into the consent agenda where most items are routine and not often discussed, complained Espinoza. Instead, he said, he would have liked the council to openly discuss the hiring of a new police chief so the public knows what is going on. "It's kind of sad he will be coming into this political circus," said Espinoza of Dunford.