Donald Mort is Sebastopol’s newest interim police chief. Sworn in in August, he’s taking the reins at a critical moment in the history of the Sebastopol Police Department. Less than a year ago, the police union forced out Chief James Connor and, under the influence of the Black Lives Matter Movement, the city instigated an audit of the department.
Mort takes over from department veteran Greg DeVore, who served as acting police chief since Connor retired in December 2019. DeVore will return to his former role as a lieutenant in the department.
Born in Oakland, Mort grew up in the city of Concord in Contra Costa County. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in criminal justice and a master’s in public administration. He’s also a graduate of the FBI National Academy and Boston University’s Senior Management Institute for Policing.
Mort began his law enforcement career with the BART Police, then transferred to the city of Concord’s police department. He started out as a police officer in Concord and rose to district commander, a position he held for 16 years. He also worked as the police chief for the city of Dixon for six and a half years. In addition, he’s been a police academy instructor since 1993 and has been the coordinator of the Napa Valley College Police Academy for seven years.
He lives in Napa.
What do you see as the top three issues facing the Sebastopol Police Department?
MORT: Enhancing community partnerships and relationships; the transparency of the department; and maintaining a highly qualified staff of employees meeting the diversity of the community.
Have you identified any changes you’d like to make in the department and what are they?
MORT: Having been here only five weeks, I am still assessing the department and community. As an interim chief, I am only here until they select the next police chief. My goal is to assist the incoming chief with an assessment and facilitating his/her transition in the department/community. In addition we currently have an outside audit of the department in place, and thus changes as they occur will be based on both the audit and my perspective.
Can you explain your philosophy of policing?
MORT: Providing quality police services to the community we serve, while recognizing that policing is a joint effort between the community and department.
What made you want to be a police officer in the first place?
MORT: It wasn’t one thing that made me decide. I knew I was a person who loved to be involved and engaged with people. The job seemed right for me, and I have been very fortunate with the career opportunities I have had. Certainly the best decision I have ever made in my life, as I am very passionate about law enforcement and the service we are able to provide.
Who was your mentor as a police officer and what was the most important lesson you learned from them?
MORT: Never really had a so-called mentor. I have learned a great many lessons from numerous people, not just law enforcement folks, throughout my career who have helped mold me into the person I am today. Probably the most important lesson learned was never forgetting who I am, not solely identifying as a police officer. Also recognizing and treating people as I want to be treated.
What were the three main values emphasized in your home when you were growing up and how do they inform your work as police chief today?
MORT: Honesty, dedicated, and passionate for life. As for my work today, law enforcement officers must be honest above all else. Understand we are not perfect, but truthful in everything we do, dedicated to the profession and community we serve. Passionate about my job. After 38 years I still stand by these values and principles to guide me daily in everything I do.
What do you wish the public understood about being a police officer?
MORT: The many challenges we face daily and that it’s ever-changing on an ongoing basis. Law enforcement today is completely different than it was in 1982 when I started. We are here to serve your needs versus we are here strictly as enforcers of the law.