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Petalumans push for ethical police chief

Honor, integrity, ethics — those characteristics surfaced again and again Tuesday night in a Petaluma town hall meeting as part of recruiting a new police chief.

Petaluma residents told two recruiters from Bob Murray and Associates that they wanted those qualities and more from the person chosen to lead a department of 62 sworn officers and about 30 support staff.

Several of the approximately 30 in attendance complained about current police leadership and interim Chief Danny Fish, either directly or more subtly.

Some voiced support for Fish's former second-in-command Lt. Dave Sears, who was demoted from a captain rank — equal to Fish — to lieutenant in a move that also slashed Sears' salary by about $35,000 during budget cuts last year.

Sears was Fish's only competition in 2009 to fill the temporary chief slot.

The demotion engendered widespread support for Sears and stirred up talk about a 2009 extramarital affair Fish acknowledged having with a police department employee he has since married.

Resident Michael Foulkes, who said he used to work in Juvenile Hall, said the new chief should bring "fresh air" and think more independently than current leadership. He said there is an increasing feeling of resentment against police now.

"Unless something is done, there is going to be a rejection of the way things are done now," he said.

Petaluma should promote from inside the department, said Richard McIntosh.

"It helps build loyalty. It helps keep good people in your community," he said. "I do think we have people from within, at least one, who is very well qualified."


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