Ceres High School graduate, U.S. Army veteran and member of the Ceres Police Department since 1993, Brent Smith was sworn into the position of Ceres police chief on Tuesday, Feb. 17 and pledged to take the department forward.
The swearing-in ceremony came eight days after his selection by City Manager Toby Wells was ratified by the Ceres City Council. An estimated 125 persons filled the Council Chambers at the Ceres Community Center to witness Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra administer the oath to Smith. The new chief's son Cody pinned on the chief's badge as wife Tanya Smith watched with a broad smile. Others watching included his parents, all five members of the Ceres City Council and the man who hired Smith back in 1993, former Deputy Police Chief Brian Weber.
As a CPD lieutenant, Smith had been acting police chief since the June 16, 2014 departure of Art deWerk who served as chief for 15 years. Wells and interview panels pored over applications but kept coming back to Smith.
Wells said that he "quickly realized I was measuring the other candidates to Brent."
"It was with my pleasure to recognize that he is the best guy for this job ... you might say he's an unassuming guy but he looks like an officer and when you sit down and talk to him about what he sees for this department, it comes out loudly exactly what he wants to do and the leadership he possesses."
Wells shared a couple of letters of recommendation, including one from former Ceres Police Chief Pete Peterson who said he watched Smith "grow from a recruit to that of a respected leader in law enforcement." Former Ceres Police detective and current Truckee Police Chief Adam McGill said this of Smith: "He is astutely aware of the opportunities and challenges ahead. I am convinced Brent has the talent and skills and most importantly the tenacity to get the job done and get it done right."
Former Deputy Chief Mike Borges, now the Escalon Police Chief, said Smith is "not afraid to enact changes and do what is necessary for the benefit of the community, the organization and the personnel he will lead."
Wells called Smith "technology driven" and said "he's trying to find the best way to put technology to use to make our officers' lives a little easier to do their job."
Smith, who has been with Ceres Police Department since 1993, said that he feels he looks forward to the future of the department.
Smith said he has many goals, including catching up with the loss of officers lost to other police agencies throughout Northern California. Two new patrol hires came aboard on Feb. 15 and second interviews are taking place to fill five patrol officer openings. Smith said he also will be seeking to hire a captain and lieutenant by the end of the fiscal year in June.
By the end of the year, Smith would like to move the department's dispatch center to an upper floor of the department and purchase new equipment.
Another project Smith is eager to see to fruition is the long-term project of converting the current 800 megahertz radio system to a digital simulcast that would also enable better communication between Ceres and neighboring police departments in Modesto and Turlock police. He also wants to see the departments share equipment wherever possible to save taxpayers' money.
Smith would also like to see his department implement a new computer aided dispatch records management system. "That's a very large ordeal and expensive one. The one we have now is 15 years old."
"I want to improve efficiency all the way around, to the police officers to dispatch to the employees who manage our data."
Smith said Ceres Police Department has enjoyed stable leadership and that he's not looking to change that tradition. He noted that chiefs Leroy Cunningham, Pete Peterson and Art deWerk served a cumulative span of 61 years.
Born in 1969 in Modesto, Smith has lived in Ceres all of his life and attended Ceres schools. After graduating from Ceres High School in 1987, he attended Modesto Junior High School. Smith earned his associate of arts degree in Criminal Justice, a bachelor's of arts in Social Science and a master's degree in Organizational Leadership from Chapman University. He joined Ceres Police in 1993 as a reserve officer and worked his way up to sergeant in 1998. DeWerk appointed him lieutenant in 2008.
"He's spent his whole career here in Ceres and that's something that is, really in this day and age, hard to find and something that is very very nice to have," said Wells.