New Palos Verdes Police Chief

New Palos Verdes Estates Police Chief Mark Velez 

Palos Verdes Estates police Capt. Mark Velez, who joined the agency in 1989 and rose through the ranks, was announced Wednesday as the city’s new police chief, sending a message to the community that the department is here to stay.

Velez had recently taken turns leading the 25-officer organization with fellow Capt. Anthony Best following the departure in August of former Chief Jeff Kepley. His appointment took effect immediately, although there will be a public pinning ceremony on Jan. 23.

Velez was to be officially announced at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, but City Manager Tony Dahlerbruch issued a memo to the city’s staff earlier in the afternoon.

“In talking with Chief Velez, I know he will be focused on strengthening public trust and confidence in the Police Department, enhancing community safety and crime prevention programs, and providing the support and training of police personnel,” Dahlerbruch said in his memo.

“He has a ‘can-do’ approach to working in the community and with our excellent Police Department team. In turn, I know, together, we will all achieve success and exceed expectations with his leadership.”

Dahlerbruch considered only internal candidates. Best will return to his job as captain.

Velez takes over at a time when the city continues to struggle with how to deal with last year’s failure to pass Measure D, a key parcel tax that funded about $5 million of the city’s $17 million budget. The city commissioned a study that considered whether the Police Department should be disbanded and replaced with the Sheriff’s Department, which has jurisdiction in the other three cities on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

Dahlerbruch waited to hire a permanent chief until after the study’s recommendations arrived. Instead of eliminating the department, the study suggested cutting the city’s jail and other positions to save money. He said the city is implementing budget reductions and organizational changes.

“The City Council supports having a local community police department and, with its budget reduction that’s been implemented, we think it will have a very strong police department moving forward,” Dahlerbruch said in an interview.

During meetings in October and November, the council chose to transfer some officers’ duties to civilians, consolidate jobs, eliminate the canine unit, increase its reserve units and expand their duties, eliminate a marine patrol program, and not replace some vehicles.

Dahlerbruch said he was impressed with Velez’s plans “for implementing the policies, priorities and budget established by the City Council, addressing the current needs and fiscal situation of the city, his long-term vision for community policing, and commitment to working with our excellent women and men of our Police Department and citywide team.”

Velez plans to focus on volunteer programs, disaster readiness and response programs, traffic issues, crime prevention programs, and laws that affect the safety of the community.

Like all of his predecessors, Velez likely will deal with surfer localism at Lunada Bay, which drew national attention in 2015 when a video of threatening behavior was posted online. Kepley was criticized for not doing enough to crack down on the alleged bullying tactics of local surfers to keep nonresidents away from their beaches.

Raised in the South Bay, the Bishop Montgomery High School graduate worked as a jailer, dispatcher and reserve officer before becoming a sworn officer. He holds a doctorate in public administration from USC, and earned a law degree at Southwestern Law School. As a department captain, he directed the operations division, which includes the detective bureau, budgeting and project management.

According to Transparent California, Velez earned $151,674 as a captain in 2016. As chief, he is expected to earn $174,000, according to city reports.

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