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Perry takes helm of Ceres Police Department
New police chief takes oath before packed room
Perry takes oath
Chris Perry was administered the oath of office by City Clerk Fallon Martin at his swearing-in ceremony Tuesday evening. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Chris Perry said he is excited about becoming the new police chief and tackling the immediate problems facing the Ceres Police Department.

On Monday the Ceres City Council voted 4-1 to formally appointed Perry as chief, replacing Rick Collins who officially retired on Jan. 5. Perry was installed at a Tuesday evening swearing-in ceremony before a packed audience at the Ceres Community Center.

Perry was groomed to become Collin’s replacement and has been interim chief since Collins stepped down.

“I’m honored to stand before you tonight as I express my heartfelt gratitude for the incredible privilege of being promoted to position of police chief,” Perry told the audience assembled at his swearing-in. “This is a moment I will forever cherish and I am extremely grateful for the trust and confidence that has been placed in me.”

Perry thanked all those who supported and encouraged him through the years, including wife Julie and their two children, Morgan, 20, and Jackson, 17.

“I am aware of the tremendous responsibility that comes with this position and I want to assure each and every one of you that I will approach this role with the utmost dedication, integrity and commitment,” said Perry. “I am aware of the challenges that lie ahead and I’m ready to work tirelessly to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our community.”

Among those sitting in the front were his parents, Dennis and Kathy Perry of Groveland; and his two brothers, Derek and D.J. Perry who previously served as Ceres Police officers.

The occasion brought together a large collection of rank and file law enforcement officers and leaders, including Riverbank Police Chief Ed Ridenour, Hughson Police Chief Lloyd MacKinnon, retired Ceres Police Chief Rick Collins, former Chief Mike Borges, CHP Modesto Area Commander Mayolo Banuelos and Tuolumne County Sheriff Bill Pooley.

At Monday’s City Council meeting Councilman James Casey raised concerns about the process in which Perry was hired, noting that while the council only hires city managers and city attorneys, he expected the council to have some input on the hiring process of the police chief.

Casey suggested that he was not disappointed in Perry’s selection but said “I think the process was flawed … and difficult to approve” and cast the lone “no” vote.

Councilman Daniel Martinez called Perry a phenomenal person and motioned to approve the appointment.

Mayor Javier Lopez told Perry that “you have the community rallying behind you as I can tell – and your fellow officers.”

Collins, a 32-year veteran of the Ceres Police Department, became chief after the retirement of Chief Brent Smith in March 2019. He was the first black police chief in Ceres’ history and the first Ceres Police captain in recent history, serving from March 2015 to March 2019.

There are a number of challenges facing the new police chief, among them staffing shortages among public safety dispatchers. Three dispatchers remain and the workload relies on other officers.

Perry takes the helm at a time when Ceres Police Department is also woefully short on sworn officers. Ceres Police currently has 42 sworn officers hired, 10 short of the 52 positions allotted. According to Perry, Ceres is finding it difficult to hire officers due to competing pay scales with nearby agencies and a waning interest in people wanting to be police officers.

To combat the shortage the city is doing what other jurisdictions are doing – sponsoring recruits to go through the Police Academy.

“We haven’t done this in about six years,” remarked Perry.

The city has two cadet candidates ready to start the six-month academy in March and will pay their salary in exchange for a contractual agreement to join the ranks of CPD after graduation.

“They will be hired as police officer recruits from Day One and we will sponsor them. They will get paid while they’re going to the Police Academy.”

The new recruits will be sworn in and start their field training.

“If successful, I plan to keep that going so then the following academy after that then we’ll do two more, and then two more, if we need to until we’re full.”

During the three-week recruit Perry said the department received 30 applicants. Interviews with those applicants will be set up, followed by testing and background checks.

Perry explained that without city sponsorships many who are interested in police work can’t hold down full-time jobs to support themselves or their families while undergoing academy training.

“That’s the impediment,” said Perry. “We’re going to pay for their academy but we’re also going to give them a salary while they’re in the academy.”

Perry remains hopeful that the Ceres City Council will find the funding to bring pay for dispatchers up to par with neighboring cities to prevent them from leaving – and recruit new dispatchers to man the 911 phone line.

“The working environment is fine,” said Perry. “Everybody loves working here. They love working for the city of Ceres. They love working under this roof. They’re very happy in all of those regards but in listening to their complaints … it’s all just money driven. I’m hopeful that the council will address that during negotiations in their upcoming contract.

“I’m very, very hopeful that we’ll get that center staffed fully again and relatively quickly. I think we even had some good candidates that are sitting out kind of aside waiting to see what’s going to happen with the contract.”
Chief Perry feels like his appointment has been met positively within the ranks and stated that he has a lot of community and council support.

Like a number of his recent predecessors, Perry is a homegrown product, having grown up in Ceres and attending elementary, junior high and high school here. He became a Ceres Police explorer scout in 1992 before graduating from Ceres High School in 1994. Perry attended Modesto Junior College and went through the regional Police Academy and found his first sworn officer position with the Atwater Police Department. Ceres Police hired him in May 1997.

During his tenure Perry has served as a Field Training Officer and worked in the Street Crimes Unit before it was disbanded due to budget shortfalls. In 2001 he was assigned as a narcotics detective with the Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency where he worked on several major drug trafficking cases. Perry was a member of the drug lab team, was a narcotics detection canine handler, worked as a Tactical Flight Officer, and worked undercover.

Perry was promoted to sergeant rank in 2006, supervising patrol shifts, the canine unit and the dispatch center. Six years later he became the traffic sergeant where he worked motor patrol and supervised the motor unit and Major Accident Investigation Team (MAIT).

Perry secured several grants from the Office of Traffic Safety that enabled special DUI enforcement operations and the purchase of automated ticket writers and body-worn cameras for officers. He also secured a grant from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution District to purchase a fleet of electric police motorcycles.

During the same time as sergeant, Perry was also the Stanislaus County “Avoid the 12” coordinator in which he managed a competitive grant program and scheduled DUI saturation patrols, coordinated DUI checkpoints and other special enforcement details.

Perry was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in charge of Special Operations in 2016. He served as the commander of the Investigations Division, Records Division and Property and Evidence. A certified drone pilot with the FAA, he developed the department’s first Drone Unit.

As he prepared to take over as Collins’ successor, Perry was promoted to the rank of captain last August and was in charge of all the department’s operations.

“I’ve worked every facet of this organization. I’ve touched every piece of policing under this roof at some point, whether I actually worked it or was in charge of it.”

Perry earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice Administration, a Master of Arts degree in Criminal Justice and Community Solutions, and a Management Certification from Peace Officer Standard and Training (POST). He is a graduate of the Sherman Block Leadership Institute, POST Executive Development, FBI LEEDA, and Drucker Executive Leadership Institute at Claremont Graduate University.

Chris is involved in several community organizations and serves as a board member for the Stanislaus Peace Officers Association where he previously served as president. He belongs to the Alpha Phi Sigma National Criminal Justice Honors Society, the Moose Club and Ceres Lions Club.

Perry brothers
Among those applauding the moment Chris Perry became Ceres police chief Tuesday included brothers Derek and D.J. Perry, Ceres Police Lt. Keith Griebel and police chaplain Joel Richards. - photo by Jeff Benziger