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Dahl takes the reins
Acting Police Chief Jason Dahl didn't get a full night's sleep before his first day on the job.
It wasn't that taking over the helm of the Willows Police Department on Monday kept him awake the night before, but with a short supply of police officers, Dahl still had to work his last graveyard shift as sergeant.
By 8:30 a.m., Dahl was sitting at a folding table inside the former office of Chief Bill Spears.
"I'm definitely going to have to get use to seeing daylight," joked Dahl, looking through the window blinds on a cool but sunny day.
His office is mostly empty, save for a coat rack and file cabinet.
Most of the office furnishings had belonged to Spears.
The walls are in need of a fresh coat of paint, which Dahl is thinking about doing himself, but otherwise he said he is a little hesitant about making himself too comfortable.
"This is a trial run," Dahl said of his recent promotion. "I'm going to have to prove myself worthy of the spot."
The possibility of assuming command immediately after Spears was something Dahl has worked toward for several years.
He graduated in late 2011 from the National FBI Academy, the purpose of which was to return him to Willows ready to serve in executive-level positions.
He received numerous accolades for his police work over the years, and his former boss had recommended him as his successor.
For now, Dahl is acting chief only, although he can later serve as interim chief for up to one year, which would allow him to get his POST administrative credentials in order.
Right now, the department is just too short handed for him to work toward that end.
What discomfort he does feel at his new surroundings, however, is due to the timing of the appointment.
The ousting of Spears — supposedly for financial reasons — was something no one in the Willows Police Department had wanted, he said.
It certainly made his promotion less jubilant.
"It's bittersweet," said Dahl, about replacing his mentor. "Chief Spears did a lot for me. He did a lot for this community."
But Dahl, 42, said he has the ability and the desire to lead the department, even if it will be tough going for awhile.
His image was badly tarnished by a one-sided narrative in a local newspaper regarding his personal life and his break up with his wife.
It also insinuated — based on an anonymous source — that other law enforcement agencies in Glenn County won't work with him because of it.
Dahl believes there is nothing further from the truth.
"The law enforcement agencies in Glenn County back each other up," he said. "That is what we have always done. That is what we will always do."
Dahl said he is working with the Glenn County Sheriff's Office and the Deputy Sheriff's Association about willing deputies filling in on some shift work on an interim basis.
He has been assured they would.
"I know people have said we can't possibly maintain (24-hour, seven day a week) patrol," he said. "But we're going to do our best to cover it."
Meanwhile, Dahl has two officer positions open and will be interviewing potential candidates next week.
The process, however, is lengthy and it could be May before he has new officers on the street.
He will also have an officer return from medical leave in April.
In some ways, the wait for a new officer will be well worth the effort, he said.
A COPS grant is paying for one of the positions, which has a school resource officer element built into the requirement.
"In light of the Newtown incident, it's probably a good idea to get an officer back in our schools and working with our kids," he said.
The grant also requires the officer be a veteran of military service, and he is hopeful his applicant will make it through the process.
"If not, we will fly the position again and start all over," he said.
Dahl said he does plan to continue Spears' efforts to have strong Volunteers in Police Service and Explorer programs, and that Sgt. Carl Walter and Det. Troy McIntyre will take over their operation.
"It would be a crushing blow to shut down those programs," he said.
He also hopes to build on the neighborhood watch program.
Over the next year, Dahl said he plans to prove to the public and city government that promoting him to the position was a good decision and that he is the best man for the job.
"J.C. Tolle got his start this way, and he has become a great police chief," Dahl said, noting the sudden turnover in Orland's command in 2011.
Colusa Police Chief Ross Stark was also an in-house promotion, and served as Interim Police Chief for nearly two years after the retirement of Lyle Montgomery.
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or email@example.com.