San Leandro Police Chief to Retire By Year’s End

By Steven Tavares

San Leandro Police Chief Ian Willis announced Monday he will retire from his post after less than two years on the job to spend more time with his family. Willis will stay on until a successor is named as early as the end of this year, according to City Manager Stephen Hollister.

Willis was named interim chief in December of 2008 after the retirement of Dale Attarian and officially given the position in August 2009. He has spent over 27 years at the San Leandro Police Department after a short stint in Foster City. “I am now looking forward to spending more time with my family,” said Willis.

“Chief Willis has done a great job,” said Hollister. “In addition, to providing organizational stability, he has increased morale and introduced a number of significant initiatives.”

Highest among Willis’ achievement is an 11 percent drop in crime during his first year. The department estimates this year’s numbers will slightly improve upon that figure reaching a 30-year low in crime. A press release touted Willis’ attention to community outreach along with the promotion of the department’s first female manager.

With his retirement after less than two years at the helm his tenure may amount to a caretaker role aimed at rehabilitating the city’s police force after numerous sexually harassment suits were filed by seven female officers. Four of the suits, which occurred under Attarian and named the former chief in the complaints, were settled last year for $405,000 with three potentially larger settlements on the horizon. “[Willis] fostered an environment where all employees are treated fairly, equally and respectful,” read the city’s statement Monday.

Hollister says the interview process could take between 4-6 months culminating with a replacement by the end of the year or early 2011. Whomever takes over the department will face cuts to its police force and staff. Eight officers were cut by the city’s recently approved budget with the prospects of an stagnant economy making further cuts possible in the future. On the bright side, San Leandro’s declining crime totals are similar to other cities across the nation. The phenomenon is confounding many social experts who espouse the basic decades-long tenet that higher crime tags along with rising unemployment and economic uncertainty.