Interim MPD chief says department is on the rise

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 chief's job.
"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," Goodwin says.
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 retirements.
"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 coverage.

Doane Yawger of Merced is a semi-retired newspaper reporter and editor.

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