Veteran Sebastopol cop to replace retiring police chief

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Sebastopol has named a new chief of police to replace long-serving Chief Jeff Weaver who retires Nov. 6.

Capt. James Conner, 51, who has been second-in-command at the Sebastopol Police Department since 2010, is set to take the reins of the 21-person staff and $3.8 million budget when Weaver leaves.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” said Conner, who joined the department in 1996. “I’m following a long-term and very successful chief who is well loved and respected. These are very large shoes to fill.”

Weaver is the longest serving police chief in Sonoma County, having worked his way from patrol officer in 1989 to chief in January 2004. During his tenure Weaver has been active in law enforcement policy well beyond the Sebastopol city limits.

He has been a board member of the California Police Chiefs Association since 2013 and served a term as head of the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Chiefs Association. He said it’s important for chiefs from small jurisdictions like Sebastopol to have a voice in legislation coming out of Sacramento.

“One of the things that impresses me most about Jeff is he doesn’t take a small town mindset and likes to tackle the bigger issues,” said Santa Rosa Police Chief Hank Schreeder. “He’s always willing to wade in and he has a lot of historic background to share.”

After Weaver retires he plans to continue teaching part-time at the Santa Rosa Junior College Public Safety Training Center where he has worked as an instructor since 1993. He also plans to do consulting work with former Sonoma County Sheriff Bill Cogbill.

Weaver said Conner has been groomed as his replacement since his first day.

“I was his recruit training officer when he was at the academy,” Weaver said. “I’m happy for the department because I wanted to ensure we had an internal promotion.”

Conner has lived in Sonoma County since he was 2 and is 1983 graduate of Piner High School. He served six years in the U.S. Air Force after high school.

While working as a full-time police officer in Sebastopol, Conner earned an associate’s degree from Santa Rosa Junior College in administration of justice, a bachelor’s in law enforcement management from Union University and an MBA from Liberty University.

“Working the graveyard shift after taking night classes and spending all my free time with my face in books wasn’t easy,” Conner said.

Since joining the force more than 20 years ago Conner has held school resource, field training and motorcycle officer positions. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2010 and captain in 2013.

“James is more than qualified based on his education and what he has done. He understands how to navigate the department,” Schreeder said. “Now it’s up to him to see what it means to be chief because it’s a lot different when you sit in that chair.”

You can reach Staff Writer Nick Rahaim at 707-521-5203 or nick.rahaim@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nrahaim.

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