By Mary O’KEEFE
After 36 years with the Glendale Police Dept., the last three as chief of police, Ron DePompa is retiring from the force.
DePompa actually retired in February but was hired by the City of Glendale to stay on while the search was undertaken for his replacement. In October, Robert Castro was announced as the new chief of police. DePompa’s official retirement send-off will be next week.
DePompa took the oath of office on Jan. 7, 2010 and became the 17th chief of police for the city. During his tenure the city has reduced part one crimes by 27% and has improved the city ranking as safest city, both nationally from 17 to eight and state from 11 to five.
“And that is despite our budget being cut by $8 million and losing 18 sworn officers and 42 professional staff [members],” DePompa said.
Not long after taking the oath of office, DePompa shook the far north Glendale and La Crescenta areas when he met with the city council and spoke, in very blunt terms, of a growing drug problem in the Crescenta Valley area.
During a Power Point presentation, he spoke not only of increased drug use, specifically heroin, but also of gang activity that had begun.
“Each area of the city has its own unique characteristic,” DePompa said at that March 2010 presentation. “But the [CV] area now has gang activity which is relatively new to the area.”
With those words some community members responded with help, but others were not so helpful.
“I took heat mostly from the community that was in denial,” DePompa said.
He began working with Glendale community police officers Matt Zakarian and Joe Allen. DePompa went to meetings, answered questions and gathered statistics. Soon the community’s denial turned into acceptance and then into working together to face the drug issues.
“It is easier when it is out of sight, out of mind,” he said. “It takes courage to recognize there is a problem and courage to step up.”
DePompa knew the signs of drug use and the tragedy that can follow due to his work in the Narcotics Unit.
“I guess of the span of [my career] the undercover narcotics and those major investigations are my [most] memorable,” he said.
The implementation of the area command is another sense of pride for the chief.
Glendale was divided into command areas using the neighborhood cop-on-the-beat theory so officers would know their area and know the crime of that area.
“I am proud of the area command. It’s supported by a robust crime analysis system with the development of great new technology,” he said. A new state-of-the-art forensic crime lab was opened at GPD in 2012.
The love of being a cop started right after he graduated from Crescenta Valley High School.
“I was always interested in police work and went on a ride-along with [GPD],” he said.
That was all it took.
“It is a great career where you can truly make a difference in people’s lives,” he said.
He especially felt lucky that not only could he work as a police officer but could do so in his hometown.
“It is an honor to be a police officer,” he said.
Although he will be off the force he will still be involved in several organizations and clubs throughout the area and will continue teaching criminal justice at Glendale Community College, which he has been doing for 30 years.
“I am going to miss [the GPD] tremendously. It has been a big part of my life and I have loved every minute of it,” he said.