I chose the city of Petaluma because I believe in this police department, our employees and I believe in the future of this city. Petaluma is a great place to live with a strong sense of community. Many of you support our employees and know the fantastic work they do. You also know the department is full of very dedicated, hard working, and professional people. But people make mistakes and sometimes that includes our staff members. When that happens, it is my responsibility to address the conduct and take appropriate corrective action.
As the police chief I am responsible for the entire department. Sometimes that responsibility includes making very difficult personnel decisions in the best interest of our organization. Personnel decisions must be based on fact and cannot be influenced by relationships or someone's likability. Sometimes these decisions are easy, and other times they are agonizing and very difficult to make. Each decision must be able to withstand the scrutiny of a well defined legal process and they cannot be governed by the court of public opinion.
I understand that media is under pressure to report on matters of community interest. Unfortunately, when opinion is misinterpreted as fact, I am prohibited by law and regulations from responding with facts, no matter how inaccurate the information is presented. In response to similar questions about confidentiality, the Mayor of the City of Santa Paula wrote an article detailing the laws regarding personnel matters. The article is a helpful reference. I have added the text of the article to our Police Department website and a link to the original article for anyone that would like to see a detailed explanation of the confidentially laws; http://www.santapaulatimes.com/news/archivestory.php/aid/25219/Confidentiality_of_Public_Employee_and_Police_Personnel_Investigative_Files.html
I welcome and support an open and transparent public information process. I have invited our community and the media into our department to participate in our ten-week citizen police academy, expanded our volunteer program, started our Junior Police Camp and held town hall meetings in each of the four corners of our city. We are actively engaged with our community and I am continually looking at innovative ways to bring our residents and businesses into our daily operations. I welcome public scrutiny of our work and on rare occasions, our missteps. But what I expect and our people deserve is a fair and objective reporting of the facts.
What most concerns me about inaccuracies in recent stories are the impact they have on the men and women of the Police Department who come to work every day and do their utmost to protect the community we live in. As the police chief I expect my decisions to be questioned and to some extent expect to weather some personal attacks, but I am disappointed that our people, who work hard for this community every day, must suffer the same fate.
Our commitment to our community is as strong as ever and we stand ready to serve.
(Patrick Williams is chief of the Petaluma Police Department.)