DOWNEY - Downey Police Capt. Carl Charles is a fan of the Lakers and, "to a lesser extent," the Clippers.I like him already. Charles is set to take over as police chief Dec. 5, becoming Downey's 10th police chief when he replaces Rick Esteves, who is retiring after three years in the top job. Residents should not expect sweeping changes when Charles takes over for the simple reason that none are needed. In an interview this week, Charles said he plans to emphasize technology at the department and "become more in tune with social media." In fact, the department is set to debut a Facebook page in the coming weeks. "As a department we are running very smoothly," Charles said from his office. "But I would like to see us become more technologically advanced." He will also oversee a newly-instituted police officer reserve program that will reinforce the ranks at a time when budget cuts have made hiring new officers unlikely in the foreseeable future. The Downey Police Department has used reserve police officers in the past but never made the program a priority. This time around, the department will bring on up to 10 volunteer reserve officers, each of whom go through the same training and are held to the same standards as regular police officers, Charles said. Another priority for Charles is to "strengthen the department's relationship with the community." "It starts with the officer on patrol. The first impression is very important," Charles said. "Every person is entitled to respect, even if you are a suspect." The department's reputation in Downey is still top-notch among Downey residents, despite protests sparked by two fatal officer-involved shootings over the last two years. Both shootings were deemed justifiable by the L.A. County District Attorney. A transparent police department is also important, Charles said, and when it comes to the media, "the age of no comment is over." Charles has already made moves within the department, elevating Dean Milligan from lieutenant to captain in charge of administration and investigations. (Capt. James Heckel retired last month but his position was frozen.) Now married 16 years and with two children, Charles knew at a relatively early age what he wanted to do with his life. He was a sophomore at Morningside High School in Inglewood when a presentation by a canine officer convinced Charles to go into law enforcement. It wasn't easy announcing to his teenage friends that he wanted to become a police officer, but as Charles puts it, "I wanted to show to my friends that police officers could be trusted. And I wanted to make a difference." He earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from Cal State Northridge and was hired by the Downey Police Department in 1990. He later got his master's in public administration from USC.
********** Published: November 22, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 32