Before retiring Police Chief Ron De Pompa accepted a collegiate science scholarship 36 years ago, he made the fateful decision of agreeing to go on a police ride-along with a Glendale police officer.
That night wasn’t a typical ride-along; rather; it was filled with excitement as he witnessed a police pursuit.
“I was hooked from then on,” he said. “This is what I wanted to do.”
De Pompa eventually became a Glendale officer and rose through the ranks of his hometown police department.
But the pivotal moment in his law enforcement career came in 2009, when De Pompa became chief of the Glendale Police Department, replacing Randy Adams.
Then, after more than three years as Glendale’s police chief, De Pompa announced his retirement last February. Still, he stayed on as chief working as an hourly employee while city officials searched for his replacement.
Glendora Police Chief Robert Castro takes over as head of the Glendale Police Department on Monday.
As De Pompa’s 36-year law-enforcement career came to an end this week, friends, family and community members gathered Thursday at DreamWorks Animation to celebrate his retirement.
“My whole career has been pretty special in that I got to do it in my hometown,” De Pompa said, adding that he felt blessed.
Photographs of De Pompa as a teen, as an adult enjoying outdoor hobbies and at work with the police department were displayed during the celebration.
Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, prelate of the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, gave the evening's invocation.
He said he has appreciated De Pompa's support for the Armenian community.
“He was a man who was very focused on his job, and his attention to the community was very much appreciated, especially by our community,” he said.
City Manager Scott Ochoa said De Pompa showed courage as he helmed the Police Department.
“It's wonderful to be able to work with a man who works a lot, works with you, but is also a humanitarian and somebody who sees the value of every member of the community regardless of their station within the community,” he said.
De Pompa’s tenure as police chief was marked with some highs and disappointments.
He oversaw major changes in the department’s operations that came after the loss of 18 sworn officer positions during the economic downturn.
De Pompa took a different approach in providing public safety to residents with the implementation of command areas and use of predictive crime analysis.
Under his command, the Verdugo Regional Crime Laboratory was finally completed. Crime rates remained low, which allowed Glendale to maintain its title of being one of the safest cities in the country with populations over 100,000.
Building a relationship with residents was critical for De Pompa, who saw the number of Neighborhood Watch groups rise from three when he first started as chief to nearly 200.
De Pompa praised the community and his sworn and professional staff for helping him carry out changes in public safety and the department that wouldn’t have been possible without their support
But another issue that weighed heavily on De Pompa was public trust.
A period of great challenge for De Pompa was when he said he learned that three Glendale police officers took a department-issued car on a joy ride to Las Vegas.
“That just broke my heart,” he said. “I never in my wildest dreams believed any of my officers would be so reckless with our public trust.”
Dealing with ongoing police lawsuits has also been frustrating, he said. Litigation, he added, “gets in the way of servicing the community.”
While De Pompa and his officers were often tested, he said they pushed through the challenges to provide public safety and “not give up ground.”
But the days of reporting for duty and managing a police department are now over for De Pompa. He doesn’t plan to slow down, though.
He will remain active in the community and continue his 30-year teaching position at Glendale Community College.
When De Pompa became a police officer, he never intended to become police chief one day. He was just focused on doing his best.
After looking back on his career, he said he loved “every minute of it” and doesn’t have regrets.
“At the end of the day, I would have still done it all over again,” De Pompa said.