Costa Mesa swears in homegrown police chief

Rob Sharpnack, accompanied by his wife, Stephanie, center, is sworn in Wednesday as Costa Mesa’s new police chief by City Clerk Brenda Green.

Costa Mesa’s new chief of police, Rob Sharpnack, remembers a moment from the beginning of his law enforcement career when he opened his mailbox and found a handwritten birthday card from the city’s top cop at the time. It was a habit of then-Chief Dave Snowden to send the personal greetings.

The gesture stuck with Sharpnack enough that more than 20 years later, he held up one of the notes as he prepared to take over Snowden’s former job.

“It just so happens when I was moving into my office I came across one of those cards,” Sharpnack said at his swearing-in ceremony Wednesday morning at City Hall. “While the card stock may be aged, the principle is still cutting edge.”

Sharpnack is the first police chief to be promoted from within the Costa Mesa department in more than 50 years. He has spent almost his entire police career in the city.


“It’s exciting to finally promote one of our own,” Costa Mesa Mayor Steve Mensinger said.

Sharpnack was hired as a custody officer in 1993 before going through the police academy as a Long Beach Police Department recruit before quickly being hired back in Costa Mesa.

Snowden, who hired Sharpnack both times, said he wasn’t surprised that he has risen to lead the department.

Sharpnack takes the helm as the department is trying to rebuild its ranks after they were thinned by attrition and a political battle that delayed hiring of replacements.


But city Chief Executive Tom Hatch praised Sharpnack as a problem solver who already has a transition plan for the next 30, 100 and 365 days.

“When we look at Rob, he is a hard-working, dedicated, honest professional,” Hatch said. “He is a professional cop’s cop.”