DOWNEY - In contented retirement for just eleven months, former Downey police chief Roy Campos one day received a call "out of the blue" from the city manager of Signal Hill. Would he, Campos, be interested in serving Signal Hill as interim police chief? They had lunch the following day.The Signal Hill city chief executive explained the situation: their police chief had accepted an offer from La Habra; the interim job would be for a period of five to six months; Signal Hill, although much, much smaller in size than Downey, is in its demographics and acculturation very similar to it; etc. Campos, who has a master's in public administration from Cal State Long Beach, had in the meantime been gearing up for a part-time teaching stint at the Orange County Sheriff's Academy in Tustin. He was told he could teach community & police relations "at an opportune time." He had in fact already obtained his instructor's credential for this purpose. Feeling "honored" by the city executive's offer, and after discussing the unexpected development with Academy officials, he was told it was perfectly alright to take the Signal Hill deal. The teaching assignment could be put on hold. He started last Nov. 8. He says he worked 12 to 14-hour days during his first two months on the job to get a clear picture of the new gig. One of the very first things he did was to call every one of the 50 members of the police department - 37 sworn officers and 13 civilian staff - to his office "for a one-on-one talk so I can know them and they me, and to let them know that though my title may say interim, they're getting a full-time, hands-on chief who's got an interest in them and the department." The response was heartening, he said: "They were honest with me, and they gave me a lot of ideas and helpful suggestions." Signal Hill is a city consisting of a mere 2.2 square miles, and completely surrounded by the city of Long Beach. Its history is streaked with oil. Its crime rate is low, with auto theft causing the major headache ("There was zero homicide in all of 2010"). Nevertheless, Campos says, public safety demands constant surveillance by the police force. Great relations and cooperation with Long Beach's police units exist and this is a definite plus, he says. "I also found out later that Signal Hill is indeed well-run, has a good city manager and provides excellent services. It's a solid, very service-oriented city like Downey. This is the kind of city I enjoy working for," he said. Looking back at his tour of duty here in Downey, he says he's glad his retirement opened up opportunities for Chief Rick Esteves and his other talented associates to move up to positions of greater responsibility and opportunity. Anyway, he said: "One of the biggest obligations of a chief is to prepare his associates to take over when he departs." "Also," he went on, "what makes me even prouder of my profession is to see the members here in Signal Hill working hard at their jobs, face the same dangers and challenges, and always rising to the occasion in the same way the Downey police operates. I'm convinced that the key to success in this job is showing respect to everybody, to our fellow workers, and ultimately, to the members of the community. If we do this we'll get the best out of everyone." He has in the meantime, early in his retirement, made trips to Pasa Robles up north and Victorville to visit his older bothers. His other siblings are within easy driving distance from his home in Walnut, making for their often enjoying weekends together. A source of delight, he says, is his contact with his triplet-nieces who reside in La Habra. He hasn't stopped his regimen for physical fitness-long walks and calisthenics-and his basic interests still embrace sports and history. A trip with the wife to Washington, D.C. is planned in May. "Because I've always emphasized the themes of respect, interpersonal relations and good relations with the community, I've always looked for the best ideas, the best practices, in these fields. I want people and situations to improve. I want to leave Signal Hill a healthier city than when I arrived," he said. He plans to attend the upcoming Police Chiefs Conference scheduled in Anaheim in early March. There is a perception, he says, that a city with an interim police chief can become stagnant or out of touch. He wants to dispel this notion. "Contact with other police chiefs, information about the latest trends and solutions to problems in the profession, and having a dialogue with my colleagues is one of the best ways to inject new energy into my department," he said. "Seeing how much the police here cares about the Signal Hill community is wonderful to behold, and this reinforces my love for the profession. I realize also how grateful I am to have served as police chief in Downey, which has always enjoyed a supportive and caring community. We can't do our job without the community's support."
********** Published: February 03, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 42