Is It Inevitable That Darren Pytel Becomes the Next Police Chief?

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Assistant Chief Darren Pytel (right) addressed council at recent meeting on the late night Downtown scene
Assistant Chief Darren Pytel (right) addressed council at recent meeting on the late night downtown scene

For a long time it has seemed that Darren Pytel has been the de facto police-chief-in-waiting in Davis. The only question has been when – not if – current Chief Landy Black would retire. That time finally came officially on October 6 when Chief Landy Black confirmed many people’s beliefs and announced his formal retirement, effective December 31.

Chief Black leaves a department very different from the one he arrived at in the spring of 2007. That department was reeling both internally and externally from the controversies with the previous chief, who had divided the internal department just as much as he had divided the community. Chief Black’s legacy was restoring the professionalism and community trust to the department.

Still, given the normal slow pace of City Hall workings, the speed at which the city has approached the new chief hire is surprising. Not only has the job listing been posted, but the position is closed and they are interviewing their finalists this week.

City Manager Dirk Brazil told the Vanguard, “I’d like to think of it as efficiency rather than speed.”

He said, “(Chief) Landy (Black) was very helpful in coming to me early in my tenure with his retirement plans which allowed us to look ahead and be prepared. The day he gave me his official notice we were able to release the position for recruitment.”

Indeed, Landy Black told the Vanguard he announced his retirement on October 6, the city posted the listing on October 7, and the listing closed on October 29.

While sources indicate that the city has a number of good candidates, the odds-on favorite remains current Assistant Chief Darren Pytel. While the city manager would not disclose either the process or the finalists, Mr. Pytel himself confirmed with the Vanguard that he is a candidate for the new chief position.

In many ways, Darren Pytel is a natural fit to become the next chief. Darren Pytel grew up in Davis, joined the department in 1983 as a police cadet, and later served as a part-time reserve and bike officer before becoming a full-time police officer in 1990.

He was promoted to captain in 2007 and then to Assistant Police Chief in spring of 2013.

According to the city posting, the position pays between $140 and $170 thousand annually.

The listing reads, “The City is looking for an experienced administrator, effective leader, and a proven police manager. The ideal candidate will be approachable, honest, trustworthy, and respectful. Exceptional interpersonal skills are essential for dealing effectively with community organizations and issues.”

“The ideal candidate will be a visionary with the ability to work positively with department staff as well as the City’s Department Directors to build a viable plan for the future,” the listing continues.

But the formal requirements are interesting. According to the listing, the job requirements include, “Candidates must possess six years of increasingly responsible experience in a management capacity in a police department including four years of administrative responsibility. Candidates must possess both a POST Advanced and POST Management Certificate. A Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration, Criminal Justice, Political Science, Business Administration, or a closely related field is required. A Master’s or other advanced degree is highly desirable.”

Requiring that the candidate “must possess” both “a POST Advanced and POST Management Certificate” seems somewhat unusual in that it would appear to preclude qualified candidates from out of state.

By way of comparison, two other locales had slightly different requirements. Sacramento required, “Graduation from an accredited college or university with a Bachelor’s degree in political science, law enforcement, public or business administration, or a related field. A Master’s degree is preferred, but not required.”

For training, “Satisfactory completion of one or more approved police management training courses may be required. Approved examples include those offered by California Command College, FBI National Academy, POST Executive Development, and/or PERF Executive Leadership Institute.”

For Stockton, “Possession of P.O.S.T. advanced and management certificates is desirable.”

Did the city’s rigid wording on POST training potentially deter otherwise qualified candidates from out of state?

Dirk Brazil explained, “In order to be a peace officer in the State of California, you have to be California POST certified. That consists of attending and graduating a California POST certified Police academy. Once a person has received an academy certificate, they are eligible to apply for sworn positions in the state of California. That being said, POST does have a waiver process for individuals who meet the sworn ‘POST Basic’ criteria in another state, who would like to be certified in California.”

Mr. Brazil noted, “Our current police chief, Chief Black, was working in another state when he applied for Police Chief for City of Davis. He had to obtain the necessary waivers from CA POST in order to be eligible for the position.”

The city is clearly committed to having the next chief in place prior to Landy Black’s exit from the community. It would appear to be a surprise to all involved if the next chief is anyone but Darren Pytel. But surprises can occur, that’s why you have a full search and application process.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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28 thoughts on “Is It Inevitable That Darren Pytel Becomes the Next Police Chief?”

  1. Cecilia EscamillaGreenwald

    Chief Landy Black has done a good job as Chief and Darren Pytel would do a great job as our next Police Chief!  Pytel worked with us to develop a plan for people who have a concern or complaint that they wish to have addressed and he is not reluctant to reach out to all segments of the community.  Furthermore, Pytel will listen to criticism and concern and work with the community on solutions.  He knows Davis, he grew up in Davis and went to school here too.  Police Chief Darren Pytel has a good ring to it!

    1. Frankly

      I think so.  I might be wrong, but I think he attended Davis schools too.  He has been a Davis cop for a long while.  That is another benefit… a Chief that really knows the community.  I think Chief Black came up to speed very quickly understanding the community, but this will be an ongoing challenge for any new chief… since we are an odd duck.

    2. hpierce

      An interesting question… traditionally, CM, some DH’s, and PS personnel were expected to live in town.  That got changed to a measure of “availability”, or response time.  Now, with technology, including Skype, etc., how much “availability” does a Police Chief need to have?  Physical presence, or just able to “see” the situation, and direct the troops if lower level management needs direction?

      I’d think Woodland, Dixon, Winters, maybe even West Sac (causeway is my only connectivity issue there) would suffice, if the technology and ability to use it is in place.

      I have no idea as to the answer to the question posed, though.

  2. Anon

    Chief Black’s legacy was restoring the professionalism and community trust to the department.

    Absolutely. Chief Black will be greatly missed, but I wish him all the best for a happy retirement. 🙂

    1. Cecilia EscamillaGreenwald

      Chief Landy Black did a great job re-establishing community trust in the department.  Assistant Chief Darren Pytel will do a good job continuing the great foundation that has been established. I wish Landy Black and his supportive and beautiful wife all the best!!!

  3. MrsW

    Just want to say how much I appreciate the Vanguard and that all of you are paying attention.  I feel more secure/safe because all of you hold these individuals in high esteem.  Thank you.

  4. Barack Palin

    That department was reeling both internally and externally from the controversies with the previous chief, who had divided the internal department just as much as he had divided the community.

    The community wasn’t divided, it was just the usual liberal agitators that got riled up.

      1. Barack Palin

        It was just a small outlier of the community.  Just as you wrote on another topic:

        i think you’re misreading what is happening.  five or six people out of 720 signed that letter.

        Same thing here, it was a very small group of troublemakers, it didn’t represent the community.

        1. Davis Progressive

          the bigger factor is that the city hired landy black and bob aaronson, and the kind of stuff that was happening in 2005 and 2006 stopped once hyde left town.

        2. hpierce

          What I suspect you’ll never acknowledge DP, is that Hyde walked into a situation that already had issues (with some individual officers), but failed to deal effectively with them.  He was not the cause, and he definitely was not the cure.  The VG (and HRC) helped assure he’d be in a defensive position regarding a small, but ‘significant number’ of “jerk” officers at the time (small # of officers having a disproportional deleterious effect), and got between a rock and a hard place between defending his officers and being a “leader”/reformer.  He did make the wrong choice(s), to be sure, but in his time in Davis, he was NOT the “satan”.

          I fully know this will fall on totally deaf ears.  I have no personal knowledge of his (Hydes’s) subsequent gigs, but I suspect they were similar… he was NOT the CAUSE, but failed as a SOLUTION.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I disagree with you hpierce. First of all, the Vanguard did not exist when Hyde was hired and did not exist until Hyde was gone. Second, Hyde exacerbated the internal problems at the PD. I heard from officers afterwards that he was absentee. He worked on his PHD at city expense, came in part time, and eventually would enter his office through the front, a more direct route to be sure, but also a means for avoiding his officers.

            Landy Black walked into a similar situation and was able to get some of the more problematic officers out, put a very good crew of LTs in place.

            When problems began to arise with morale and it bled into community contacts, Hyde withdrew and then helped to manufacture conflict with the HRC. The HRC started investigating police complaints because the city council was sending those complaints there. When the HRC proposed civilian review, Hyde (and I still have the emails) started to bring together community members to launch a smear campaign of the HRC. The City Council caught in the middle, sided with the police chief, but ultimately put in place Aaronson as the ombudsman.

            I’m trying to get a copy of the record from the city, but it shows that there was a huge spike in claims against the city police in 2005 and 2006 which dropped to close to nothing once Chief Black was in place along with Aaronson. People want to say it was the HRC, but the Vanguard was in place by late 2006, if the complaints against police had continued, we would have been covering them. The reason we didn’t is that they stopped happening for the most part under Black and when they did, he dealt with them. The biggest complaints under Black all resulted in the officer being terminated, that never happened under Hyde.

        3. hpierce

          I think we are actually on similar tracks, David, but neither of us probably have all our facts…  after reading what you wrote in response, UNLESS Hyde recruited the ‘rogue-leaning officers’, they were present.  I could agree that they weren’t kept “on-leash”, or “enabled”, if I had more facts.  We have had some, but they were/are a small fraction.  But, “it only takes one rotten apple…” to cause problems.  I agree that Hyde failed as an effective leader.  Laying everything on him, as an individual, is patently unfair and incorrect in my opinion, and I seriously doubt you can ever substantiate that claim.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Two things I would say – is no, it’s not all on him. There were problems he inherited. There were some tough situations. I do think the actions that he took exacerbated the problem.

  5. PJ

    I don’t understand why our City Manager is quoted in the Davis Enterprise on October 11 as saying a nationwide recruitment process for a new chief had begun when it clearly had not.  Personally, I believe we lost an opportunity to recruit for our city and police department a leader with broader experience in law enforcement.  Whether or not Darren Pytel is ultimately selected, it would have been ideal to have a transparent, objective, and community involved hiring process. 

  6. hpierce

    Am a bit surprised, David, that given your contacts @ CH, that you didn’t word this piece “It is inevitable…” [no ? mark]  Or, are you doing the journalistic equivalent of “slow play”?  Or are you not as connected to CH grapevine that you have said you are, in the past?

    You did mention some clues… does the job spec look like it could have been taken from Mr Pytels’ Curriculum Vitae?

    Don’t get me wrong… with the R&F support, Darren could well serve.

      1. hpierce

        It’s a “lock” David.  Was from day 1.  Surprise, surprise.  Lots of “window dressing”.

        Darren is fit to serve, question is will he be a leader that the rest of the team will embrace and follow. Am thinking yes, but don’t know.

        1. Matt Williams

          That question exists for all people who are “second in charge” in their current position and are looking to step up to the “person in charge” level. Dirk Brazil faced that situation as the “second in charge” at Yolo County behind Patrick Blacklock. For the most part Paul Navazio faced that situation as the “second in charge” In Davis when he applied for the City Manager’s job in Woodland.

  7. Anon

    hpierce: “What I suspect you’ll never acknowledge DP, is that Hyde walked into a situation that already had issues (with some individual officers), but failed to deal effectively with them.  He was not the cause, and he definitely was not the cure.

    When I attended a group meeting at the Davis Police Department while Hyde was Chief of Police, to take a ride along with the police, Hyde was not particularly impressive, but seemed rather unnecessarily defensive of his officers.  One officer in particular made some very inappropriate remarks during that public meeting, which took many of us aback (low class comment about women as I remember it).

    Secondly, when Hyde arrived in Antioch after the debacle in Davis, he stirred up quite a hornet’s nest there, and certainly did not handle it well.  But what was highly egregious was his ugly and disrespectful statements about the very officers he served with in Davis.  Extremely unprofessional.  See:

    http://abc7news.com/archive/6269525/

    https://www.davisvanguard.org/2009/05/former-chief-offers-insulting-depiction-of-dpd/

    1. hpierce

      What happened in Antioch, happened there.  What happened in Davis, happened here.  Get a clue.

      Your “logic” to equate the two is speculative. Hyde was NOT a great PC.

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