The city of Palos Verdes Estates has a familiar face heading up its Police Department.
Anthony Best, a 25-year veteran of the department, was recently named its acting chief — becoming the city’s third law enforcement head this year.
Mark Velez retired as chief in April, so the city brought in retired PVE police Chief Daniel Dreiling to lead the department on an interim basis. Dreiling helped an ad hoc committee the City Council created to examine the future of the department.
Best, who became acting chief early last month, said an assessment is expected to be completed before the end of the year and then presented to the City Council.
It’s a period of transition for the Police Department, Best said, as the city of 14,000 grapples with whether to keep the force or contract with Los Angeles County to have the Sheriff’s Department provide law enforcement services, like the other three Palos Verdes Peninsula cities do.
A $5 million parcel tax passed by voters in April 2018 is not enough to support the department.
And the coronavirus pandemic, currently surging across the county for a second time this year, adds another layer of complexity to an already difficult job, Best said.
“They are taking extreme precautions,” Best said, “to ensure that they feel protected to the best of their abilities from COVID-19.”
Citywide financial issues — the town lacks a substantial tax base, other than from property, with no hotels and barely any restaurants or markets bringing in revenue — has also hindered the department’s ability to hire and retain officers.
While officers had to work overtime in the past to make up for open positions, Best said, the department is now short only three of its authorized 23 sworn officers.
“We’re focused on the human aspect of it,” Best said, “requiring officers to work multiple 12 hour days or sometimes 18 hour days, we want to limit that as much as possible.
“We’re excited that we have new officers coming on board,” he added, “and we believe it’s going to help address the fiscal and the human impact of overtime.”
How long Best will remain acting chief, however, remains unclear — and could be tied to the future of his department.
City Manager Laura Guglielmo said she is waiting until the City Council considers the coming assessment before launching a search for a permanent chief.
“It would be unfair to any candidate to offer them a job,” she said in an email, “without absolute certainty that the City will retain an independent Police Department.”
But for now, Best certainly appears qualified and knows the city well enough to lead the department.
Best left the U.S. Marine Corps in 1995 and became a service officer with the city the same year. He became a police officer in 1996 and has held numerous positions at the department since, including serving as its first motorcycle officer, and as climbed the ranks. He has served as Patrol Division commander and, most recently, Support Services Division commander. He also graduated from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, in 2016.
Best said he is honored to serve as acting police chief.
“I think we’re fortunate to have dedicated professional officers and a really strong management team that the city manager is building to address these challenges, the long-term financial plans recruitment, retention, COVID-19,” Best said. “I think we’re on the right track and moving ahead. So I think there are brighter days ahead for PVE.”