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New guard takes helm at Petaluma Police Department


Petaluma Police Lt. Tara Salizzoni, a 22-year law enforcement veteran, has been selected to fill a recently created deputy chief position at the department, making her the highest-ranking woman at the agency. Salizzoni’s promotion comes as part of a broader shift under recently appointed Police Chief Ken Savano, who is creating a framework for the future of the department.

Salizzoni, the daughter of slain Lake County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Richard Helbush, joined the department in 1996 after a brief stint as an officer with the Fortuna Police Department in Northern California. She’s served in a variety of capacities, ranging from patrol officer to her most recent post of lieutenant, where she’s been charged with the oversight of patrol operations and district policing.

“She has not only the necessary skills and qualifications, but she also has relationships with the staff ... She has the ability to positively influence people to accomplish common goals and objectives. That’s one of her strengths,” Savano said.

Approved by the city council in October, the deputy chief role is intended to assist with daily operations of the department, including administrative and budgetary issues. The salary will range from $126,588 and $153,869 a year, according to city staff reports.

The department was forced in 2011 to restructure amid recession induced budget cuts, eliminating several positions, including two captain’s posts. The agency instead functioned with one chief and five lieutenants.

“This (promotion) allows the organization to focus more directly on being able to deliver excellent service to the community,” Savano said. “To be able to do that, we have to also take care of our most important resource, which is our staff.”

Salizzoni, a 46-year-old Lake County native, assumed the post March 12.

“There’s so much change and it’s exciting to be a part of it,” she said. “Working with the men and women I work with is such an honor.”

The agency employs four sworn female officers, including Salizzoni, Savano said, adding that the department has a “history with diversity.”

Mayor David Glass expressed support for Salizzoni’s promotion.

“I’m glad for the diversity and I have confidence in Ken’s judgment,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sgt. Ed Crosby, also a 22-year Petaluma police veteran, and Sgt. Brian Miller, who has worked with the department for 11 years, have both been promoted to fill lieutenant roles. Detective Nick McGowan and Senior Officer Garrett Glaviano were promoted fill the vacated police sergeant posts. McGowan has worked in Petaluma since 2006; Glaviano, the president of the Peace Officers Association of Petaluma, has been with the department since 2005.

Sgt. Paul Gilman transfered from the patrol division to act as detective sergeant at the helm of the investigations unit, while Field Training Officer Walt Spiller was selected to join the unit as a detective to fill vacancies created by other promotions.

Savano said the department is seeking to hire four additional officers, with two officers currently in training.

Savano, 46, was selected to helm the agency after serving for four months as interim chief in the wake of former Chief Patrick Williams’ retirement. Reared partially in Petaluma, he joined the city’s department in 1994 on a foot and bike patrol assignment, a role that shaped his future as a proponent of community policing. He’s worked his way through the ranks, including a stint as a traffic sergeant, where he was awarded for efforts to cut down on drunk driving and as a lieutenant focused on developing the Petaluma Policing model.

Savano said the agency he inherited is a “great department,” and he plans to focus on succession planning and mentoring staff for future promotions within the agency while building positive relationships within the department and the community. Post-recession staffing is still lagging, forcing personnel to juggle multiple duties, and Savano said he will continue to utilize technology and intelligence-led policing to bolster service.

Mayor Glass said the city plans to hold a workshop in coming weeks to identify potential sources of revenue augmentation to help round out the budget and fund services, including the police department and infrastructure repair.