STOCKTON, California — The city of Stockton is in the midst of a search for a new police chief for its force of 435 sworn officers.
At the end of 2021, Eric Jones announced his retirement after 28 years with the department, including 10 years as chief.
For now, Assistant Chief James Chraska is serving as the interim police chief. Community activists in Stockton are watching the process very closely. "Transparency" is the word activists want to continue hearing.
"When you know stuff that's going on in a neighborhood as a criminal activity, tell people," said Fred Shiel, one of the leaders of the community policing non-profit, Stocktonians Taking Action to Neutralize Drugs (STAND).
Jasmine Dellafosse, who helped organize the Black Lives Matter protests two summers ago, says there are a number of things the next police chief should have in his description.
"I think the city of Stockton is at a crossroads and that this person who comes in to fill this position is to continue the work around community trust building, someone who is going to bring accountability and transparency," Dellafosse said. "And willing to dive deep into the nuances in the history of Stockton and its past."
Toni McNeil, community activist with non-profit Faith in the Valley, agrees that transparency is key, but the candidate for chief must possess more.
"The people that I organize with, what they would like to see is someone who is equitable. Someone who is available and approachable. Someone that puts the community first," McNeil said.
All three gave positive marks for the direction that retired Chief Eric Jones led the department and say its a foundation that can be built upon.
McNeil is unsure about hiring someone from outside the department.
"I believe that someone who is here that has been vetted that has been part of the process of change and has been supportive of procedural justice work and pillars of principled policing, that's who we should be looking for," McNeil said.
"There's no better way to get folks in poor neighborhoods to not trust the police department or the city as a whole when you refuse to tell them anything," Shiel added, in regard to the importance of transparency.
One major issue community activists say they would like to see improved is what they say are the disparities of citations and incidents among Latinos and Black individuals in the City of Stockton.
"We see most directly that, disproportionately, Black Stocktonian's and Latinos are disproportionately cited in this community more than others," Dellafosse said.
The application deadline for candidates is March 14. Anyone who wants to express their opinion on who should be Stockton's next police chief can fill out a city survey HERE.