By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
Clovis Police Chief Dan Blair announced his retirement Wednesday. His last day will be June 30. Blair, 43, spoke with the CNJ about his decision to retire and his 22-year career as a Clovis police officer.
Q: Why retire now after 18 months as chief?
A: Me and my wife and my kids, we’ve talked about this for a long time. You look forward to a day when you can retire. When I took this position, I figured I’d like to give this three years. If you look at the retirement side of it, I’m in a good position (to go). It has nothing to do with the department or with the city. The city has been supportive.
Q: Have you accepted or are you looking for another position?
A: Right now, no. I’m sure there’s one out there that I’ll enjoy. My wife has told me I have to work. But for the next couple months, I am not going to be looking at the want ads everyday. I still have a job here (and) we still have a lot to accomplish.
After I’m done doing this, I am going to do something somewhere else. I might be a cop somewhere else.
Q: Does it set the department back to have quick chief turnover? Is consistency needed to be effective?
A: I’ve always heard the (national average for a chief) is three to five years. I think you do need some consistency, (but) (Ray) Mondragon, (Bill) Carey and I came from within (the department) and you have consistency in that manner.
Q: What about your replacement and recommendations you might make?
A: I haven’t even gone there. I’m sure the city manager will want to talk to me about it and we’ll see. Right now I’m working on the (annual) budget. I want to get that done and get it out of the way.
Q: What major issues have you faced as chief?
A: Recruiting. It is not just our department but statewide.
You can’t just say it’s a money issue. That can be a deciding factor, but I think the deciding factor is law enforcement as a career as a whole. Applications are down and we are constantly asking, “What can we do, how can we do it?”
Q: There are criticisms there is an internal reason for the shortages. Is that true?
A: It doesn’t matter where you go, there’s issues. But overall those issues don’t cause the people to leave. Have we had a few issues? Yes. You always have a few disgruntled employees.
A lot of it comes down to personality conflicts. It happens when you put a bunch of A-type personalities together. We’ve had people say supervisors were harsh, but they were good supervisors. What you do to help (people) improve, it’s not enough no matter what you do.
This department isn’t a bad place to work, I’ve done it for (almost) 23 years.
Q: How bad is crime in Clovis?
A: We have crime. Do we have a crime problem? Yes, we have crime and that’s bad.
If we put as much effort into fighting crime as we did into the BRAC issue and tornado cleanup, guess what, you’d see a big decrease in crime. But crime is the police’s problem.
Q: Will the concepts of community policing and “One with Clovis” fall by the wayside now?
A: The name might change but it will still be here. The concept of community policing was here before I became chief and we’re continuing with that. It’s something that as an administration, we have to continue to instill in our employees. Long term, I still believe the community has got to get involved. When we do get involved, great things happen.
Q: What have you enjoyed most about your career?
A: I love being a cop. The two areas I enjoyed most were probably patrol officer and patrol sergeant. As an officer, you’re out there, you’re taking calls but you can set your own individual goals and you meet a lot of people, there’s a lot going on. As a sergeant, you get to lead others and attack issues head on.
Q: What is the most memorable case you’ve worked?
A: You always remember the first violent death scene you went to and there’s a lot that stand out. I worked a case years ago involving the death of a 10-day-old baby. At first we thought it was a (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) case but it turned out the baby died from cocaine intoxication. That one kind of opened my eyes up. And I never got the answer of how that happened; it’s an unanswered question.
Q: What do you wish you’d done different as chief?
A: There are a few things I would have done different, but the outcome would have probably been the same. Recruitment — trying to be the department that figures out what it’s going to take other than throwing a bunch of money at it.
I wish I would have figured out that magical thing to do.
Q: What hobbies might you enjoy in retirement?
A: I like being outdoors. I enjoy fly fishing and deer hunting, but most of all what I enjoy is being with my family. That’s my comfort zone. I have been blessed to have a good family and a good wife that understands (my career).
I have been called out during movies, (anniversary dinners), and she’s never once said a word about that. Her philosophy is and always has been that, “Someone else needs you more than I do right now.”
Editor’s note: This story has been edited for clarity and length.