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Quality of candidates within Ceres Police Department superb

Editor, Ceres Courier,

I recently had the privilege of sitting on an interview panel for the Ceres Police Department. During the process, we interviewed 11 police officer candidates vying for four promotional positions to patrol sergeant. 

The day-long process involved two interview panels – the first a panel of three sworn officials and then a panel of three civilian representatives in the community – with 10 questions being asked from my panel. 

I didn’t realize how difficult the process would be. I’ve previously sat on interview panels for the city. Usually, one or two candidates may stand out making the choice somewhat clear as to the best candidate for the position being filled. This was not the case.

Candidate after candidate, it was clear that the men serving in our department are listening to their chief. That is not to say that the women in the department aren’t, there just weren’t any female candidates who had applied for the positions being filled.

Chief Rick Collins has made it clear that police officers have to be more than just law enforcement to the Ceres community. He has stressed to his officers that they must engage with the community on a human level. They must interact with citizens to identify priorities and provide problem-solving solutions to Ceres residents. He has stressed that there must be transparency and accountability to gain the community’s trust.

Listening to each candidate identify what they consider to be priorities in the community – from homelessness, to an increasing drug fentanyl problem, to the safety of our children, to a transparent department – was eye-opening, but to also offer solutions to some of those problems was amazing.

I was pleased to see that we have enough police officers within the department to promote upward rather than to go outside of the organization. In some cases, candidates have been here two or three years, in others some have devoted their entire careers to Ceres PD and are invested in this community. Regardless of how long they’ve been here, to most of them, Ceres is home.

I recognize that there are “bad” cops in the world. I know that not everyone is happy with the police all the time and that incidences happen when law enforcement is at fault for action taken, or inaction for that matter. Despite those officers that poorly represent the badge, we cannot group law enforcement as a whole. There are good officers out there – several in our own community.

Congratulations to Patrol Sergeants Jeff Godfrey, Julio Amador, Trinidad Viramontes and Jonathan Blount on your promotions. Congratulations and thanks to all of the candidates, who were willing to step up for our community and take on more responsibility within the department. Although some of you didn’t make the cut this round, keep trying because you are all incredibly talented individuals. You made our choice difficult, so I know it was difficult for Chief Collins in the final round of interviews.

Finally, kudos to Chief Collins for wanting to improve the department in ways to better protect our community and engage more with its residents.

Renee Ledbetter,

Executive Director,

Ceres Chamber of Commerce

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