MPD chief says department is on the rise
By DOANE YAWGER
January 11, 2018
In the next several months, Merced's interim police chief
says he is facing several major challenges — helping
the department get to full strength, finalizing some key
promotions and going forward with preparation of a new budget.
Christopher Goodwin, 48, was named acting chief Nov. 28
and interim chief Jan. 1, replacing Chief Norm Andrade who
retired in November. Goodwin expects the process to pick
Andrade's replacement to take up to six months, perhaps
a little less.
Goodwin's biggest challenge is bringing the police department
up to its full complement — 97 officers. At present
they are still six or seven officers short of that goal,
even with four prospective officers attending academy training
and two others in training.
Goodwin, hired July 22, 1996, says he does not want the
"With hiring, I am making it a priority," Goodwin
says. "If we get to 97 (officers) we will able to provide
the best service possible. Most law enforcement agencies
have turnover and retirements. We are all trying to come
up with creative ideas in recruiting. We are just trying
to get quality people."
Law enforcement is still an attractive career field and
getting out and helping the public can be very rewarding.
The Merced Police Department is competitive with other agencies
in the San Joaquin Valley, the chief believes.
He concedes being a police officer is a dangerous job.
"It's the unknown. You never know what you are going
to encounter. My message to the officers is you need to
be aware of your surroundings and back each other up,"
Personally, Goodwin says it''s been a great career here
and he has gone further than he ever imagined he would.
He is one of three captains within the department and went
from officer to sergeant and then lieutenant before attaining
his current rank.
Several promotions within the ranks of the administration
are in the works. When these promotions are made, it will
increase the department's span of control and offer enhanced
leadership availability to officers, according to Goodwin.
The department is trying to attract individuals willing
to attend academy training, someone who already has academy
experience or seasoned officers from other agencies wanting
to work here.
Goodwin is striving to bridge the gap with the community
and says dialogue with police is a two-way conversation.
It can always get better, he adds.
Merced police regularly confront quality of life issues
such as homelessness and criminal street gangs. The department
has its dedicated Gang Violence Suppression Unit which collects
intelligence on area gang activity. Gangs are a statewide
issue and probably not going away, Goodwin laments.
A sergeant and three officers are deployed with the department's
Disruptive Area Response Team started four years ago which
handles quality of life issues such as homelessness. When
officers contact the homeless, they give them flyers and
other information on resources available to them.
Goodwin says he's still learning the budget process but
is confident city administrators and the Merced City Council
want to get open positions filled with quality applicants.
He predicts there will be lots of upward movement within
the department in the next five years with turnover and
"Merced is an up and coming community and is starting
to thrive. We are getting new businesses and UC Merced is
growing," Goodwin says.
Goodwin says officer morale should be good and getting better,
particularly with more officers getting hired. Officers
are moving into specialty units and two new dispatchers
also have been hired in the last three months. An open records
clerk position also has been filled.
Goodwin says he has had lots of support from City Manager
Steve Carrigan and Assistant City Manager Stephanie Dietz
and has authority to take the police department forward.
Merced police offers earn from $5,042 to $6,129 per month
and senior officers earn from $5,564 to $6.763 monthly.
They receive $100 a month extra for an associate of arts
degree or $200 a month for a bachelor's degree. They get
12 paid holidays and a $1,000 annual uniform allowance,
swing shift differential and paid medical, dental and vision
Doane Yawger of Merced is a semi-retired newspaper
reporter and editor.