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Smith gets nod as police chief
Ceres Police veteran fills in where Art deWerk left off
Brent Smith has been acting Police Chief since Art deWerks departure in June. But on Monday he was formally appointed the permanent chief after a selection process narrowed down to six finalists. He started at Ceres Police Department in 1993. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Brent Smith, the lieutenant who has been in charge of the Ceres Police Department since the June departure of Art deWerk, has been named the permanent chief of police.

The announcement was made Friday by City Manager Toby Wells and the appointment was ratified by the Ceres City Council at Monday evening's regular meeting.

Although Smith has been serving as Acting Police Chief since June, Wells decided against automatically appointing Smith in the permanent role and considering other candidates, saying "we owe it to the citizens that make sure that we get the best person for the job."

The city opened up the recruitment process in November after the city did away with the dual Department of Public Safety to revert back to separate police and fire departments. The application process closed on Dec. 15 with six applicants being interviewed by a technical panel and a community panel.

Smith, who has been with Ceres Police Department since 1993, said that he feels he looks forward to the future of the department.

"I'm pleased," said Smith on Friday. "I'm very excited to be the next police chief of the city of Ceres. I've worked my entire career here except for the time I spent in the military. I've worked with a lot of good men and women and I look forward to moving the department in a positive direction."

He feels his experience and inside knowledge of the department gave him the edge over the other candidates. Smith also feels that he has the support of his officers.

Smith said he has a "ton" of goals, including catching up with the loss of officers lost to other police agencies throughout Northern California. Two new patrol hires are coming aboard on Feb. 15 and second interviews are taking place next week 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.

To help improve morale and communication, sergeants and those ranking to the top will be attending a team building workshop in Monterey in March paid for by Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) organization.

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 CAD 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."

DeWerk's 15 years with the city ended June 16, 2014. DeWerk, who had been police chief and acting city manager in the first half of 2014, had been on two months of medical leave for removal of a brain tumor but returned to work the week of June 9. A closed session was held on June 10 concerning deWerk. No action was taken but during a closed session on June 16 deWerk was gone. Wells said that deWerk was not fired.

DeWerk had been with the city since 1999.

Ceres adopted the Public Safety Department model in 1988, placing police and fire operations under the control of a single director who doubled as the police chief. Then Chief Pete Peterson helped enact the change. A number of cities went with the concept that "never really gained any type of traction" according to former city attorney Mike Lyions.

Smith said Ceres Police Department has enjoyed stable leadership in the past and that he's not looking to change that tradition.

"This city has had three chiefs in 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 bachelor's and master's degrees 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.

At Monday's meeting, Ceres resident Leonard Shepherd called Smith's appointment "the greatest thing that I've seen come out of here as far as personnel."

"This young gentleman - even though he's got gray hair - has a got a lot to offer and will can stay here for the rest of his career if he doesn't run out of energy in the next 20 years."

A swearing-in ceremony will be scheduled in the near future, said Wells.