Almanac

News - September 15, 2010

New police chief reflects on first week in Menlo Park

by Sandy Brundage

His first week on the job started well, then took a tragic turn as an explosion in San Bruno on Sept. 9 destroyed lives and homes. Menlo Park's new police chief, Bryan Roberts, said the department sent two patrol officers to the scene, and is committed to doing whatever it can to help.

Other challenges lie in wait, like building connections with a community whose relationship with the police has sometimes been rocky. He listed one goal for his first 30 days as becoming acquainted with the residents, and the other police officers.

That includes getting out of the office to visit local civic organizations, such as the Boys and Girls Club and the Chamber of Commerce.

"They're certainly going to see me out there quite a bit. I'll be out in a patrol car today with one of our officers to learn more about the geographic boundaries," Chief Roberts said. "It's a busy, busy time."

The 49-year-old man served the past four years as second-in-command of the Citrus Heights police department in Sacramento County. Menlo Park is similar in its desire for a professional, responsive police department, he noted, but different demographically, given the uneven geographical distribution of affluence among its residents.

"Some neighborhoods have different challenges, like Willows and Belle Haven," he said. "We'll be listening to those communities and responding to their needs."

Specific ideas on how to engage the community in cooperative problem-solving will have to wait until he gets a feel for what the department is already doing.

A former Marine, he has spent 24 years in law enforcement.

The family-oriented atmosphere and professionalism of the Menlo Park Police Department drew him to apply for his new job, he said, and his own family made a smooth transition to their new home.

He replaced Bruce Goitia, who retired June 1. According to the city, Chief Roberts emerged as the front-runner in a pool of more than 30 candidates across the United States.

"It's been a very good experience," he said of his first week here. "Everybody in the community and city has been very welcoming."

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