After 3 1/2 years on the job, Laguna Beach Police Chief Mike Sellers is moving up and out of Laguna.
Sellers, who joined the department in October 2005, has accepted a new position as chief of the Fullerton Police Department, a city nearly three times the size of Laguna Beach.
Police Capt. Paul Workman will be promoted to the position of interim chief for “an indefinite period,” City Manager Ken Frank said.
Workman will begin his new job May 8, the day Sellers will officially be off the job.
Sellers said he will miss Laguna Beach but felt the opportunity to serve a larger community, and make more money, was something he could not pass up. When he came to Laguna, he said he planned to stay until he retired.
“I love Laguna, and I wasn’t looking for a job, but things came together, and there have been some changes in my life, so this penciled out,” he said. “It seemed like a fun thing to do.”
Sellers led the department during some tumultuous times, including the April 2007 shooting by police officers of a Mission Viejo couple in a hotel room at the Montage Resort & Spa, which led to a district attorney investigation into the couple’s death and a lawsuit. Police were exonerated in the case, and the lawsuit has been dismissed.
“There were three shootings that year, including shots exchanged during a bank robbery and shots fired into the window of a police car on New Year’s Day,” Sellers recalled. “It’s not been quiet, but we’ve been holding the line on crime. People say they feel safe in Laguna.”
Sellers was chief of police in Seal Beach for eight years before joining the Laguna Beach department. Seal Beach is about the size of Laguna, but has the largest U.S. Navy weapons cache on the Pacific Coast.
Sellers said he has an affinity for Fullerton, where he has been teaching administration of justice part time at Fullerton College.
“It has a lot of the same problems as Laguna, with a resort area and parking issues,” he said.
Sellers also can be credited with overseeing the city’s highly successful program to address homeless issues through a special police officer assigned to monitor and provide services to people living on the streets.
The policing program was implemented as a recommendation of the city’s homeless task force.
He said he was very gratified when, during the Patriot’s Day Parade on March 1, a homeless man approached him. “He said ‘thank you for [homeless beat officer] Jason Farris,’” Sellers said. “For the homeless and the business community to both appreciate his work is very meaningful.”
Sellers says he still considers Laguna Beach his “home town,” because he has fond memories of growing up here as a young child staying with his grandparents.
“I am very fond of this community, and I will always be around,” he said.
Workman, a 30-year department veteran, will assume the post on the day Sellers departs.
Workman will implement some major changes to be introduced during the next fiscal year, Frank said.
“The city is reorganizing the police management structure, and we are just starting to implement that program,” Frank said. “At the same time, the city is confronted with the most severe financial situation in many decades.”
The new structure will upgrade the watch commanders from sergeants to lieutenants, and will replace some sworn officers with civilian employees. The switch will be “revenue-neutral,” Frank said.
Raising the status of the watch commander will eliminate a problem the department has had over who is in charge during serious incidents, according to a city staff report.
“The one person who is best equipped to deal with both the reorganization and the financial constraints is Paul Workman, who has been a captain in the Laguna Beach Police Department since 1995,” Frank stated in a news release. “Paul will be charged with implementing the reorganization, filling the key management positions, and guiding the police department through an austere budget.”
Workman has more than 30 years of experience with the department, starting as a reserve officer in 1975. He has been promoted through the ranks from officer to sergeant, lieutenant and captain.
For many years, Workman supervised the field services division and is currently in charge of the support services division.
“Paul’s knowledge of the department and his budgetary expertise will be invaluable,” Frank stated.
Workman lives in Laguna Beach.