College gets new police chief

Ten months after inexplicably placing its long-time police chief on leave, Glendale Community College officials have named retiring Glendale Police Lt. Gary Montecuollo to the job.

The 53-year-old Montecuollo, who earned an associate’s degree from the college in 1987 and has taught there as an adjunct faculty member for 16 years, will be sworn in Monday. He will be responsible for eight sworn officers, a dozen student cadets and an annual department budget of $1.77 million.

“I basically think this is truly one of the best things that has ever happened to the college,” President/Supt. Dawn Lindsay said of the new chief.

The hiring brings to a close a period of uncertainty for the college Police Department that started in December when officials placed its top brass, Chief Steven P. Wagg and Capt. Nidal Kobaissi, on leave.

Lindsay has repeatedly refused to discuss the matter, stating only that Wagg has since retired and that Kobaissi left due to personnel matters.

Facing a leadership void, college officials in March turned to the Glendale Police Department to help supervise its law enforcement operation. They also considered dissolving the campus department entirely and handing over policing responsibilities to the city’s force.

Instead, Lindsay decided to rework the job description for campus police chief, increasing the basic requirements to include a master’s degree and the rank of lieutenant.

Montecuollo, with his long history with Glendale Community College, brought those requirements and more, Lindsay said.

The new chief’s relationship with the college dates back to the 1970s, when he moved to Glendale from the Midwest to live with his aunt in an apartment adjacent to campus. After formally joining the Glendale Police Department in January 1982, Montecuollo climbed the ranks, working patrol, internal affairs, robbery/homicide, special weapons and tactics, and gangs.

“Gary has always been my go-to guy for the most sensitive projects and the most complex problems,” Glendale Police Chief Ron De Pompa said. “I consider him to be probably one of the finest ambassadors to the community that I have ever worked with.”

Montecuollo simultaneously pursued his education, earning an associate’s degree at Glendale Community College, a bachelor’s degree at Cal Poly Pomona and a master’s degree at Cal State Northridge. He has taught administration of justice classes at Glendale Community College for 16 years.

Most recently, Montecuollo was serving as traffic bureau commander and downtown area commander, and was part of the Police Department contingent that lent support and expertise to Lindsay as she searched for a new chief.

According to city records, Montecuollo earned $184,000 with the Glendale Police Department in 2010. In addition to his pension for his years with the city, Montecuollo will earn $111,000 as chief lawman at the college.

“Glendale PD is certainly one member of the family, but I have been connected here at the college for a number of years and this is my second family,” Montecuollo said. “I think one of the things I have always wanted to do is make a difference. I think this was an opportunity that allowed me to continue that in a very real way.”

His nearly 30 years in law enforcement will enable him to introduce techniques and ideas never before employed on campus, Montecuollo said.

“It is just such a huge opportunity for me to really take the lessons I have learned and then apply them,” he said. “I look at myself as a life-long student, as somebody who has been taught a number of good lessons. Now I can bring those and work with a team here at the college.”

The role of law enforcement at a community college is different than that on city streets, Montecuollo said. Simple changes like properly lit walkways can make a big difference in terms of safety and comfort on a campus.

“The mission of the college is to ensure the students succeed,” Montecuollo said. “My mission, the department’s mission, really needs to fall in line with that.”

Many of the officers he will now lead are former students, he said.

“I am just really looking forward to doing what I can to make not only the police department a better place, but really to support Dr. Lindsay and the entire faculty and the mission to make students successful.”

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