ATASCADERO – The 4th. January 2021 was the first official day of Atascadero’s new police chief, Robert Bob Masterson. The new chief succeeds former chief Jerel Haley, whose last day of work was in October 2020 after nine years of service with the Atascadero Police Department.
They contacted the new boss this week to arrange an interview to learn more about him and what we can expect in the city of Atascadero in the coming months.
Chief Masterson began his career in law enforcement in 1986 with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department. He was hired as an assistant trainee in 2001 and progressed from private to police lieutenant.
After seven years as a lieutenant, Masterson left the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office to become the director of a faith-based, nonprofit organization involved in gang prevention among at-risk youth, before becoming chief of police at Sequoia Community College.
Masterson has made great strides in reducing violent crime over the past five years as Chief of Police for King City. This is an important part of the city’s overall plan to end youth violence. Masterson was so successful that he received a congressional recommendation for reducing violent crime in King City, as well as accolades from the state Assembly and Senate.
Masterson is no stranger to the Central Coast, citing our part of California as one of the main reasons for attaching his name to Atascadero.
My wife and I came here to the San Luis Obispo area because we decided we wanted to raise our children here, Masterson says. What attracted us to Atascadero was the connection to the ABC [Atascadero Bible Church]. I knew that some people from the valley had already moved here and worked for the Sheriff’s Department, and in fact they all live in Atascadero, so I started hanging out.
One thing that was very evident in all of his stops at the police department was the relationship he was able to build with the community around him that he hopes to start at Atascadero.
I believe that to strengthen your relationship with the community, you have to be part of the community, the Chief said. So I have to be present at events, attend events, be visible – if we can – but also go to local businesses, say hello to people and talk to service groups. The easiest way to become part of the community is to get to know it.
When it comes to making changes to the department, Masterson says it’s too early to tell because he’s only been operating the department for less than a week, but he plans to maintain a special unit to help work with Atascadero’s homeless population. Former Chief Haley reinstated the program in August 2020 to help the city address the growing problem of homeless neighborhoods.
We’re going to keep the special forces in their entirety, Materson said. It is a good instrument for helping the homeless to resolve their problems, but I would also like to extend our work with the homeless population and provide them with services that they can really benefit from, and possibly find.
On the issue of COWID-19 and state-imposed restrictions, the new leader stated that he believed in public education and voluntary enforcement.
Chief Masterson was appointed at the City Council meeting on the 8th. December 2020 officially confirmed.
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We’ll get through this together, Atascadero…