VACAVILLE — Since Lt. John Carli was tapped to assume the top position in the Vacaville Police Department, he’s been called a couple of names, title-wise, and been asked repeatedly, “Hey, what am I supposed to call you now?”
The confusion about how to address Carli, 47, ends at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at his badge-pinning ceremony, when he officially becomes Vacaville’s 14th police chief.
While the title transfers on Wednesday, his transition started the day he was named to take over the role after Chief Richard Word retired in November. The city appointed interim Chief Randy Ulibarri to temporarily run the department after Word’s departure.
“The work and moving forward has not waited,” Carli said. “We’ve been preparing . . . for what the city needs, what the city expects, (which is) a full-service Police Department.”
Some of that work has been the natural domino effect of Carli’s interdepartmental promotion, which left a chain of holes that need to be filled by other interdepartmental promotions. The department is also adding a second-in-command position that disappeared in the economic downturn. Within 30 days of Carli’s appointment, he said he’ll have filled positions for one captain, two lieutenants, three sergeants and hired two officers from the outside.
“We filled his plate with lots of things to do,” City Manager Laura Kuhn said.
From the outset of Carli’s selection, Kuhn said that his job prior to officially assuming the role of chief would be to backfill the positions left by his internal promotion. The ability to fill the long-missing second-in-command position is separate and is due to shifting around positions with no hit to the budget, Kuhn said.
Carli called the department one with “a lot of moving parts” as it begins to rebuild from the Great Recession. It’s a positive movement that he said is a “huge step in the right direction.” Carli said they successfully weathered the cuts, but acknowledged that the cuts were not sustainable in the long term.
The department has 153 employees, 97 of them sworn officers.
“We still need to hire more,” he said.
Built into the budget of $27 million is four additional officers who are included in the ongoing transition that Carli calls “strategic rebuilding.”
Sitting in his soon-to-be vacated office, before moving to the chief’s space, he was surrounded by telltale signs of his career rise and of the role he currently plays within the department – it’s a multiple-pronged role he likens to a “hybrid” model. He keeps a white board with neatly jotted, categorized, single-word notes that only he can understand. The board, he said, “allows me to sleep at night.”
“You’re looking at my project sticky-note board,” he said.
Tackling some of the city’s problems that he calls “quality-of-life” issues such as homelessness and its relation to crime and impact on local services, combined with the mental health aspect, are key on Carli’s list. He said statistics show that 40 percent of the homeless residents are also dealing with mental health issues.
As the Vacaville Police Department has for decades, Carli puts much emphasis on a community-oriented policing philosophy that involves different partnerships focusing on the root of the problem. After the thinning out of support programs and the loss of a crime suppression team to the bad economy, Carli said he eventually would like to put in place a community response team that includes professionals such as social workers to aid in his quality-of-life campaign.
“For it’s size (Vacaville) has a significant homeless issue,” he said, adding that to solve the issue it’s important to understand the true problem.
“We have to work together,” he said. “We can’t do it as a single agency.”
Another concern of Carli’s is what he said is an uptick in property crimes after the passage of Assembly Bill 109 – prison realignment legislation that allowed for the release of low-level inmates. He said the legislation had a “significant impact on our community” with a 20 percent increase in property crimes two years ago that corresponds with the release.
That community-oriented policing philosophy fits right into Carli’s own. He calls his wife his “greatest fan and biggest sounding board,” with both of them following and instilling in their children that it’s important to not only care, but act on it as well.
Treating others like he would like to be treated and aligning with the Golden Rule are typical with Carli, Kuhn said.
“John is a very thoughtful, empathetic and caring individual,” she said.
Carli has lived in Vacaville for more than two decades and has been on the Vacaville police force that long. He started as a canine officer and worked his way up the ranks. He has no intention of leaving any time soon.
“I’m just getting started,” he said. “There is nothing on my horizon other than being an active member of this community.”
The badge pinning ceremony will take place at the Vacaville Opera House, 560 Main St.
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.