Glendale's interim police chief, Ron De Pompa, takes on many responsibilities and wears several hats, including husband, father, softball coach and Glendale Community College professor of 27 years. De Pompa, a 32-year Glendale police veteran, has taken over police chief responsibilities, replacing Randy Adams, who retired Friday to lead the Bell Police Department. De Pompa said he realizes that the road ahead will have its own set of challenges for the department, but is willing to take it on.
VERONICA ROCHA: So is becoming the interim police chief an exciting moment for you?
RON DE POMPA: Absolutely, it is.
Q: Or is it more stressful, given the recent budget cuts?
A: I have been asked that by others . . . and it is stressful. But in reality, I feel very comfortable in this role at this given time. Partly because with 32 years experience, I know the department intimately. I know how it operates, and I certainly have a clear idea of what we need to do to get through this time period. So I have a sense of comfort based on my experience level and intimate knowledge of the organization.
Q: Did you ever expect to become the head of a police department?
A: I always thought that was a possibility, but it wasn't a priority because I knew I would be at a high enough level in the organization to effect change and provide positive direction. So whether that was at an executive management level, or ultimately become the chief someday, it was probably less of a priority than actually providing the contribution at whatever level I was at.
Q: As a child, what were your aspirations in life? Did you always want to become an officer?
A: I always had an interest in police work and a respect for police officers. While I was initially going to be a science major in college, as soon as I got out of high school my interest waned in that area and grew more intense in the area of law enforcement. To the point where after two years of college, I decided that this is what I wanted to do full time.
Q: What is it that draws you to law enforcement? Is it stopping the bad guys or helping the innocent?
A: It's a little of everything. It's not only being able to make a contribution in your community, but it's an exciting job. It was exciting for me. I loved going out on patrol. I loved looking for the criminal element. I loved the suspense of not knowing what call for service was going to come out on the radio next, and to me that was a very exciting and enjoyable career.
Q: Do you miss going out on patrol?
A: I absolutely do. I remember when we were young we used to kid each other, or kid among the officers, that they even pay us for this. Everybody that seems to come on really enjoys the work. I remember as a young officer, working graveyard shift, you could hardly wait for the next shift to begin.
Q: Which detail that you served on stands out the most to you?
A: They are all uniquely different and enjoyable, and that's probably one nice thing about the career — that you get to work so many different assignments. But certainly working narcotics was one of my favorites. I worked it both as an undercover officer — you know, buying drugs on the streets. That was, needless to say, very exciting. But then working the major violators and major cocaine smugglers through the 1980s was a real challenge as well. We did some tremendous cases that had not only regional but national implications.
Q: So Glendale had major cocaine problems?
A: We had a major cocaine issue back through the '80s when I was working the unit both as an investigator and supervisor.
Q: So are you all work and no play now that you're the interim police chief?
A: No, not necessarily. I believe that you kind of need a balanced approach to this career, and if you don't have outside interests and activities and supporting family, this career can take its toll. And we certainly see that.
Q: What are some of the things you do in your spare time?
A: Well, probably the most consuming thing I do right now is I coach junior Olympic girls' softball at the 18-and-under gold level, and this is the level that prepares young women to move on to be college athletes. Through this effort and a nonprofit youth sports association that I started many years ago, we have put a significant number of young ladies in college scholarships where they are participating as athletes.
Q: Do you still have the time to devote to coaching softball?
A: It's much harder now, and I have to depend on a good coaching staff to carry the majority of the effort, but I still like to be involved and helping with the recruitment process.
Q: What do you foresee as some of the challenges in the department as you lead it?
A: Obviously, the biggest concern is the fact that the organization is understaffed and under-resourced, given the policing demands in the community and the size of Glendale. And so that is quite a challenge for us to find ways to absolutely maximize the effective use of our time and resources. The other thing that we are very concerned about is what's happening at the state level, especially with the [California] Department of Corrections and potential release of 28,000 felons back into our neighborhoods with minimal parole supervision and reentry or rehabilitative programs. Given that we have a perfect storm brewing in that communities across the state of California have reduced officers from their forces as Glendale has — we have lost 17 sworn officers in the last two years — given that, and in light of this potential release of felons into our area, it's going to create significant public safety concerns for us.
Q: What measures or operations will you employ differently from retiring Police Chief Randy Adams? Or do you believe staying on the course already set is the way to go?
A: I think Chief Adams developed a lot of good direction and strong momentum that we need to continue. But having said that, certainly the environment has changed a bit with this recent budget reduction that we have to now implement. So that will require that we do some rethinking about how we run the organization and provide service. So it will cause us to go down a path of reorganizing the divisions, and it will also introduce the new concept of our command leadership, something that we always wanted to pursue, but now feel that we are absolutely obligated to implement in order to meet the needs of the community. So there will be some changes in direction; there will be some changes in philosophy that come with that. But certainly the momentum and direction that Chief Adams established here provided a good foundation for moving forward in the future.
Q: Talking about the future, when will the search for a new Glendale police chief begin?
A: I really don't know. That's a decision that the city manager and the council have to direct. I am sure when the time is right, they will look at that issue. I think right now, there is so much related with budget and implementation of service reductions that that issue has probably been more of a back-burner issue than on the forefront.
Q: You said you wouldn't bid for the job. Does that still stand, or are you reconsidering that?
A: If they do a national recruitment, I will not test. After 32 years here, I just feel that there's probably not a need for me to do so.