Rick Collins became the first captain in the recent history of the Ceres Police Department during a promotion ceremony held Monday evening.
The occasion, which was attended by approximately 100 persons, also served to formally appoint Sgt. Chris Perry as a lieutenant, a position that had been filled by Collins.
The ceremony also included the swearing-in of new officers Matthew Berlier and Daniel Graziose.
As captain, Collins will be acting in the same capacity as the former deputy police chief position. Ceres last had a deputy chief when Mike Borges served until his retirement in 2014. Newly appointed Ceres Police Chief Brent Smith said that he reclassified the position from deputy chief to captain since neighboring cities use the captain title for next-in-command.
"It's just a title change ... that is more in line with the industry standard," explained Smith.
More promotions are in the works as the department scrambles to fill positions vacated by officers who have left for better pay in more-well-to-do cities in the Bay Area.
"We have a lot more people to promote, the only thing is we can't hire people fast enough at the bottom to do it," said Chief Smith. "We actually have most likely two more lieutenant positions coming the next fiscal year and we currently have two sergeant positions open."
Smith said he hopes to fill the two sergeant positions by July after background checks are completed.
Ceres Police Department has lost about eight officers to cities like Mountain View, Livermore and South Lake Tahoe.
"I don't think it's going to stop," said Smith. "Guys are just looking for higher paying jobs. It's going to be tough for a while. Modesto is in the same boat we are. I guess our one goal would be hiring people who want to stay local and not have to do that commute. We still offer a good retirement for lateral employees. Retirement's changed for newer employees. It's still a good retirement, better than some other cities, but it's not the three percent at (age) 50 that we had since January."
The chief said he made the promotions in time for the team building workshop that is occurring in Monterey starting Tuesday. The event, intended to be fun but also set goals and plan for the department, is being paid for by the state, said Chief Smith.
Mayor Chris Vierra spoke and said he appreciates how Ceres Police Department promotes within.
"I think it's really important that we promote within," said Mayor Vierra. "I'm glad we're doing that. No offense to any of the other law enforcement people here but I'm kind of partial; I think we have the best organization and when I take a look at the training grounds here, it's okay if people leave to take advancement but I want to make sure we have opportunities here that we recognize the people."
Collins was born in Oakland and moved to the Valley in the 1980s. After graduating from Ceres High School in 1991, Rick began his police career in 1992 as a police explorer, becoming a reserve officer in 1995. Collins became a full-time officer in 1997 and has held positions of detective, sergeant, SWAT team leader and lieutenant. He earned an associate degree from Modesto Junior College and a bachelor's and master's degrees from Chapman University.
His wife Heidi and he have an 11-year-old son Trey.
A product of Ceres, Chris Perry grew up in Ceres and became an explorer in 1992. His first police job was in Atwater and he came to Ceres Police in 1997. Perry has served on the department's Street Crimes Unit, as a Field Training Officer and assigned as a narcotics detective with the Stanislaus County Drug Enforcement Agency in 2001. After his appointment as a sergeant in 2006, Perry worked in traffic, canine and dispatch units. As the traffic sergeant he helped write requests that led to grants for DUI enforcement and electric motorcycles. Perry earned a bachelor's degree. He has been married to Julie Perry for 15 years and they have two children, Morgan, 11, and Jackson, 8.
The event drew Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christiansen and police chiefs from Modesto and Oakdale.
Both Berlier and Graziose replace officers who left the department for better pay elsewhere in the region.
Officer Matthew Berlier, 31, comes to Ceres from the Chowchilla Police Department where he worked as a police officer for two years and three months. He previously worked for the Merced Sheriff Department as a sheriff's deputy for one year. His prior military experience includes five years in the U.S. Navy where he worked in the military police. During that time he was deployed to Iraq and two deployments to the middle East in support of Operation of Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Matt has a six-year-old daughter.
Graziose, 44, spent 11 years in the U.S. Army prior to entering law enforcement. For the past decade he has been a deputy with the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Department. He has worked assignments in SWAT, K-9 and as a field training officer. Prior to coming to Tuolumne County he worked in Tennessee as a sheriff deputy for Tipton County for two years. Dan currently is active in the U.S. Army Reserves.
Officer Graziose has two daughters, ages 10 and 19.
Smith also introduced Marcy Pederson to the audience as the department's new executive secretary. With 35 years of administrative experience, Pederson was employed 12 years as the executive assistant to a wealth manager in Oakdale.