Pasadena May Have to Pick Interim Police Chief

Times Staff Writer

It has been seven months since Police Chief Robert H. McGowan announced that he would retire in June, but city officials have yet to start accepting applications to fill his position and may be forced to appoint an interim police chief, City Manager Donald McIntyre said.

"These recruitments take a lot longer than you think they should," McIntyre said.

The delay in finding a replacement for McGowan, a 30-year veteran of the police force and chief for the last 16 years, was caused by a two-month study done by an outside firm on the qualifications needed for the position and by the interest of some Board of City Directors members in being involved in the selection process, McIntyre said.

The city will begin accepting applications for the $65,458-a-year job around the end of this month. If a replacement is not found by June 28, McGowan's last day, an interim police chief will be appointed, McIntyre said.

The interim chief would be Cmdr. Fred Bertsche, McIntyre said. Bertsche has been with the Police Department for 29 years and has made it clear he is not interested in the chief's job, because he plans to retire next year.

"If they can't fill the position, I'm the least problem to put in, in terms of politics," Bertsche said.

Top Internal Candidate

Department sources said the top internal candidate for the chief's job is Cmdr. James Robenson, 42, head of the Staff Services Division. Robenson, who has been on the force 20 years and is the city's highest-ranking black officer, steadfastly declines to comment on the position. "The chief's still here," Robenson said. "Let's just wait and see what happens." But city officials and police officers say it is no secret that Robenson is very interested in the job.

Also a prominent candidate within the department is Cmdr. Don Hughes, 39, head of the Investigative Division and an 18-year-member of the force. Hughes declined to talk about his interest in the position, saying "we have all agreed not to comment on it. I'd really rather that it be low key. We're in a tough spot already and we just don't want to make a big issue of it."

McGowan's retirement announcement last October came as no surprise. The chief, who has become somewhat of an institution in Pasadena for his high visibility and amiability in public, had been talking about leaving six months before his official announcement.

Study Took 2 Months

Various city officials suggested that an independent study be done before applications for McGowan's replacement are accepted. The study, which took two months to complete, was done by a Northern California firm. City and police personnel, the Board of City Directors and community leaders were interviewed concerning the qualifications the police chief should have.

The study, however, coupled with the desire of the Board of City Directors and community leaders to have a hand in picking McGowan's replacement, delayed the selection process, city officials said.

"We wanted to wait until we got the report" before soliciting applications, said City Director Loretta Thompson-Glickman. "We wanted an evaluation done by an outside firm, but that should have been done at least a year ago," she said.

Administrative Reorganization

Also contributing to the delay was a far-reaching and controversial reorganization of Pasadena's administration, which resulted in the creation of two deputy city manager posts, one of which will oversee the Police Department.

Approved two weeks ago by the Board of City Directors, the reorganization calls for one deputy city manager to be in charge of water and power and public works; the other will head police, fire, paramedics, libraries and community and recreation services. Both positions are to be filled in July.

Creation of the deputy city manager posts helped stymie the search for a new police chief, city officials said, because the new positions changed the chief's job description. Before the reorganization, the chief's position also carried with it the title of Public Safety Agency director. That title will be assumed by one of the deputy city managers.

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