Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rialto Police Bouncing Back (SB Sun 032607) Chief, with City's support, prepares new strategy..

Rialto police bouncing back
Chief, with city's support, prepares new strategy
Jason Pesick, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 03/26/2007 12:00:00 AM PDT

RIALTO - Expectations are on the rise for the city's Police Department.
About a year ago, its supporters' main goal was to keep it intact following a September 2005 City Council vote to abolish the department in favor of the services of the county sheriff.

The council later reversed the vote.

Now, Police Chief Mark Kling, who holds a doctorate of public administration from the University of La Verne, talks about turning the department into the top police agency in the Inland Empire.

"We've got great people here that are motivated now," said Lt. Joe Cirilo, whose 27 years with the department makes him the longest-serving member of the force.

Kling, who took over as chief in August, has pushed an aggressive campaign to transform the department by revamping its patrol philosophy, recruiting officers to fill 27 open positions and getting money from the council to update equipment and the dated police station.

Frank Scialdone, the former Fontana police chief who was Rialto's interim chief from December 2005 until Kling took over, said it will take Kling a long time to achieve his vision.

"He's got a tough job ahead of him," Scialdone said, noting that "the average officer doesn't like change that much."

The department has a number of talented people who need a dynamic leader to give them direction, he said.

"He has that charisma and that ability to do that," Scialdone said of Kling.

As interim chief, Scialdone also decided the department should implement a policing strategy he used in Fontana. Implementing that strategy, which is centered on using area commanders, has become Kling's most important responsibility.

Under the area-commander program, to be kicked off in June, the city is divided into three areas, with a lieutenant assigned to each.

The lieutenants will be the community's liaison with the department. They will hold four meetings a year with the community and devise strategies with other city departments, such as code enforcement, to address problems in the area.

The program, which Kling stresses will take time to fully implement, gives the lieutenants the ability to address problems before they get out of control, Scialdone said.

"Instead of taking a reactive approach, we're taking a proactive approach," Councilman Joe Baca Jr. said of the area-commander program. "It restores public confidence," he added, because it involves residents.

Even though implementing the area-commander program will be one of Kling's biggest tests, he has had a number of other issues to grapple with since taking over.

The turmoil in the department after the council's vote to eliminate it caused so many officers to leave that when Kling took over there were 27 openings for officers - about a quarter of the department. Now that number has been cut to 13, although there are still a number of openings for nonofficer positions.

The department, which was once an incubator for lawsuits and charges of corruption and favoritism, will be holding courses on terrorism training, dispatching and SWAT commanding for members of other California departments in the coming months.

Kling is also exploring using gang injunctions, which can bar certain people from particular locations, to dampen gang activity.

Walking through the station, it's hard to find an employee who isn't upbeat about where things are headed.

"You walk down the hallway - people are laughing now," Cirilo said.

In many ways, the departments seems re-energized. It conducts high-profile operations every few weeks, such as Thursday's early-morning anti-gang raid on 19 locations.

Either because the department is stable or because of Kling's political skills, every member of the City Council has publicly praised Kling.

"I think you're a perfect fit in our city," Councilman Ed Scott, who voted to eliminate the department, said at a recent council meeting.

On a recent drive around the city together, the two happened upon a burglar alarm going off. When a police officer arrived to check the situation out, Kling had his back. He cocked his gun and went in, too, Scott said.

In addition to praising to Kling, council members are rewarding the department. In the past few months, they have approved a new armored vehicle and a tactical communication vehicle for the department, as well as minor renovations to the facility until the city figures out what to do about constructing a new police station.

For now, the city's residents and the council are optimistic. Expectations are high for Kling.

When council members were heaping him with praise at a recent meeting, Kling tried to temper the optimism.

"We'll hit some bumps along the way, but we'll get around those bumps," he said.

BS Ranch Perspective:

From the information that I gathered the Department is off to a huge recovery. The City Administrator, and City Council along with the people that were involved in the hiring of the new Chief Finally Got it right! This guy is great with the men. The people that were leaving for the benefit of their families in the long run, after the Police Department was Voted to Go with the Sheriff Department. They were in Fear that they were going to the County, and the loss of their Benefits, with the Public Employee Retirement System after over ten years of Dedicated work, have started to come back to work at Rialto.

They have been some of the dedicated people whom have come back, and Rialto has respectfully taken them back with no questions asked, and no grudges held. That has made the department move forward, with Dignaty and greatness, that it has lost over the years, well since Ray Farmer was forced out back in the Early 90's.

Mark Kling has been the answer that has been great for the community, he has been everything good that everyone has heard and more.

BS Ranch

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