His third week on the job, Cloverdale Police Chief Jason Ferguson is still working on learning the ropes of his new position. Ferguson was sworn in as Cloverdale’s chief on Aug. 5.
“It’s nothing I didn’t expect. I knew I was going to come in here and take on a lot, and I have. That’s expected and that’s OK, that’s part of the challenge I was looking forward to,” he said. “This is a great department, it’s been very supportive of me. It’s a great city, that’s been very supportive of me — the executive managers, the city managers, all of the department staff has been very welcoming and has made this transition for me much easier.”
Ferguson came to Cloverdale after a 22-year law enforcement career at the Lakeport Police Department (LPD), where he most recently spent seven years as a lieutenant, second-in-command to the chief. While serving in that capacity, Ferguson was tasked with taking on the role of acting chief while his chief was out of the office. As such, he has experience attending commission and council meetings, as well as dealing with similar roles that he’ll have to perform while in Cloverdale.
“Our cities, while significantly different in population size, they were similar in territorial size but we had the exact same sworn force,” he said. “There was a lot of similarities that made it somewhat adaptable for me to come in and understand.”
Notable to Cloverdale’s own wrestling of issues, Ferguson was part of Lakeport’s permitting process for cannabis businesses and had to work to address issues of homelessness.
“It is a social problem. It is a national problem,” Ferguson said, discussing his views on the latter. “The city of Cloverdale is not the only city addressing this or dealing with this. It is a very difficult challenge because a lot of times, police departments and its officers are looked at figuring out the solution of the problem. We’re just one component to a larger scheme of resources and agencies and allocations — and all of this is also impacted by limited funding.
“I’d love to be able to tell you that there’s an answer for it tomorrow, but clearly there’s not,” he continued.
“If you go across the state and you look at some of these places where you can see shelters right underneath freeway overpasses — if there was a simple solution, you wouldn’t see those there. That should be clear, that it’s not that easy as some may think. It’s a constant challenge and something that requires a lot of attention.”
Community and transparency
When asked if he had any plans for his new role, Ferguson said that he hopes to build on the foundation of community engagement that was a point of focus for his predecessors. During his second day on the job, Ferguson helped sling burgers for Cloverdale’s National Night Out festivities and it’s events like that one that remind him of the community-oriented atmosphere that he was fond of while working at the LPD.
“I would love to make that to where we’re even getting more people coming out,” he said. “I thought we had a good turnout, I thought it was a lot of fun — I’d love to see it even expand more if that’s possible.”
Along a similar line of engagement is Cloverdale’s business watch program, which had its first meeting toward the end of April. Ferguson called the program “outstanding,” and likened the development of it to programs like neighborhood watch.
Another area that Ferguson wants to work on is department transparency.
“That’s something I’ll work towards, making sure we are transparent with our community to the degree that we can be,” he said. “There are certainly things that we have to be careful of, and we have to get citizens to understand that — that not everything all the time can be put out for certain reasons — whether it’s a lawful reason, whether it’s something that is ongoing.”
Beyond that, Ferguson doesn’t anticipate making any other changes to the department in the near future.
“I’m not looking to do anything ridiculously crazy right now, I’m kind of sitting down and watching how it operates,” he said. “I’ve been very pleased at this point with what I see. As we move forward and I get more comfortable, maybe I’ll look into other ideas to maybe make us more efficient. Other than that, I’m pretty pleased where I’m at.”
The Cloverdale Police Department went through a structural change as Ferguson was coming on board — the creation of its first lieutenant position. The reorganization was led by former interim Chief Robert Stewart because he felt the department needed a clearer command structure. The new chief said that he agrees with the decision because it creates a clearer path for a second in command should he be absent. He also said he agrees with Lt. Chris Parker being appointed to the position.
“I’ve watched him interact with community engagement and he’s spot on,” he said. “He’s obviously a very popular officer here, so it was the right decision and a fantastic decision. We will work well together.”
His impression of Cloverdale so far is a positive one — like many people who settle here, he likes the community.
“This is very much a tight-knit community and it shows,” he said. “That’s great because that’s exactly what I came from, and I couldn’t be more happy that it’s so similar as it relates to that.”