Retirements coming earlier for Pleasanton police chiefs
If you think new police chiefs are being appointed more frequently in Pleasanton, you're right. This week, Capt. Michael Fraser was sworn in as the chief of the Pleasanton force, succeeding retiring Chief Tim Neal, 52, who's been at the post for 7 1/2 years. Now 53, Fraser has been on the city's force since 1980, making him eligible for retirement in just four more years. Since the statewide police pension system provides full retirement benefits and 90 percent of their highest pay to police who are at least 50 years old and have served 30 years in municipal police work, those who continue on would be working for 10-cents on the dollar. There's even great personal risk to staying on the job even if you want to since the benefit and ongoing retirement pay package ends if you should die before retiring. The surviving spouse collects what's been paid into the system and vested, but nothing ongoing. Fiscally and practically, the state pension plan works to discourage 30-year veterans from continuing in their job unlike in the private sector where junior executives just reaching their 50s and with 30 years of experience are prime candidates for their companies' top positions.
Neal reached the 30-year point last fall, but stayed on through Jan. 31--next Wednesday--at the request of City Manager Nelson Fialho--until he had chosen and publicly named a successor. Of course, it will be up to Fraser to decide when he'll retire, but it's likely to be 2010. Few criticize a state retirement plan that tells cops 30 years is enough, go and enjoy your remaining years without risk. Fraser and Neal have both been on the front line, often in the line of fire during armed robberies and drug investigations and arrests. Neal still carries a bullet fragment in an arm. The careers of police seeking the usually very competitive posts of police chief are far more hazardous than those working their way up to corporate CEO, who are measured by their sales, engineering or financial skills.
Fraser's credentials are impressive. Besides his years on patrol and police beats, he holds bachelor and master's degrees, is a graduate of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, the Senior Management Institute for Police, the FBI National Academy and the Department of Justice's Command College for police administrators. He also has had a top secret clearance from the FBI for the past two years and works regularly with the FBI on counter-terrorism issues. He is an active member of the California Police Officer's Association and has brought contemporary training to the Bay Area region for the past three years. Over the years, his responsibilities included the management of patrol, traffic, special events, the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, canine, range, animal services, reserve officers, parking enforcement, vehicle abatement and the Field Training Officer program.
Historically in Pleasanton, police chiefs were appointed earlier in their careers and then served in the leadership post longer. Pleasanton's first chief, the late John Delucchi, actually started out as the town marshal before being named chief of police in 1933. He served until 1954 when Walter McCloud was named chief, a post he held until 1976 and then again from 1978 to 1981. Bill Eastman became chief in 1981 and held the post until 1999, when Neal was hired. Neal's last day on the job is Tuesday when Fraser, Pleasanton's fifth police chief since the city was incorporated in 1894, formally takes over.