In a sweeping management change, San Diego Police Chief Bob Burgreen on Wednesday promoted a black woman, a white woman and a Latino man to assistant chiefs after reviewing 118 applications nationwide.
Capts. Rulette Armstead, 41, and Nancy Goodrich, 39, are the first women ever to hold such high posts within the San Diego Police Department. Capt. George Saldamando, 41, is the second Latino to be promoted to a chief's job.
After a six-month review, Burgreen and a four-person panel of community leaders unanimously selected the three captains after reviewing the applications of nine internal and five outside candidates. The chief had whittled the list from 118, traveling to several cities, including Los Angeles and Detroit, to interview potential assistants.
"These are people who are going to shape the direction of this police department in the next two decades," Burgreen said. "My people were every bit as good as the strongest candidates we saw."
In replacing two white, male assistant chiefs who are scheduled to retire in early July with the three new assistants, Burgreen has reshaped the top command to better reflect San Diego's racial and ethnic makeup. The city is 21% Latino, 9% black and 49% female, according to the 1990 census.
Burgreen said the new assistant chiefs are dedicated to the concept of "community-oriented" or neighborhood policing, in which officers are assigned to work with a particular set of residents as a means of breaking down the barriers between law enforcement and the community. The concept is being touted by San Diego police and city leaders as an antidote to the type of hostile feelings against police that escalated into widespread violence in Los Angeles.
"The city is looking for representation of the entire community, but, more importantly, it wants qualified representation," said Saldamando, who joined the department in 1972 and was the first officer devoted solely to fighting gangs. "Making the senior staff as diverse as it is is a very big decision."
Saldamando has worked as a detective in criminal intelligence and gangs, as a sergeant in patrol, gangs and the narcotics task force, as a lieutenant in the police academy, public affairs and special investigations and as the captain of the Central Division, which includes all of downtown.
"His interaction with the community is absolutely superb," Burgreen said. "I have never received as many compliments in the community for one person as I have received for George. He personally answers problems and personally directs solutions."
Armstead, a member of the department since 1974, has worked as an officer in patrol, the school task force and child abuse, as a sergeant in criminal intelligence, as a lieutenant in patrol and the equal employment office, and as executive lieutenant and captain in the Southeast Division.
She is the first black in the department to attain the rank of assistant chief.
Burgreen said many in the city's Southeast, where crime is highest, both know and respect Armstead.
Goodrich joined the department in 1974 and worked in the training academy. She was sergeant in communications, investigations and internal affairs. As lieutenant, she worked in communications, in the equal employment office, and in public affairs.
As captain, she ran the central command for two years before being transferred to traffic, where she oversaw the investigation of several motor officers who were disciplined for padding their traffic "activity reports."
"She took on some of the toughest investigations anyone in a command staff has ever had," Burgreen said. "She solved the problems, even though she could have looked the other way."
Burgreen's community panel, which chose the three chiefs, consisted of San Diego Fire Chief John Delotch, San Diego County Postmaster Margaret Sellers, State Appellate Judge Richard D. Huffman, and Ralph Pesqueira, owner and president of El Indio Shops Inc.
With three new assistants appointed Wednesday, Burgreen has fulfilled a recommendation by Norman Stamper, his executive assistant chief, that seven assistants be chosen. Besides the three, the other assistants are Ken Fortier, Bob Thorburn, Dave Worden and Jerry Sanders.
Assistant Chiefs Cal Krosch and Mike Rice are scheduled to retire July 6, Burgreen said. Stamper also recommended that a layer of police commanders be eliminated. Only two are left and one, Larry Gore, is scheduled to retire in late July.
Burgreen said one more management move is yet to be made that will result in seven assistant chiefs rather than eight, including Stamper. He declined to be specific. Burgreen also has three captain slots to fill.
The police chief himself wants to retire to Arkansas next year, although he said it will be more likely next spring or summer rather than next January, as he originally mentioned.
"I'm having too much fun now," Burgreen said.