SAN RAMON -- The man who was one of the core members of the San Ramon Police Department when it was created in 2007 and helped hire many of the current officers was sworn in Feb. 11 as the department's new chief.

Chief Joseph Gorton, a captain for the past seven years, is the city's new top cop, overseeing a department of 58 officers. He had been serving as the interim chief since former Chief Scott Holder retired in November.

Gorton's 26-year career began at the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office, and has included municipal patrol, investigations, undercover narcotics, a hostage negotiations team and Drug Abuse Resistance Education. In 1998, he started the Contra Costa Sheriff's Office Helicopter Unit, which patrolled local waterways and other hard-to-reach areas.

In 2007, Gorton led a transition team to create the San Ramon Police Department and later helped the agency move into a new cutting-edge 36,000-square-foot police facility in west San Ramon.

"I've had a very productive and fulfilling career," said Gorton, 48, who grew up in Nevada and graduated from the University of San Francisco. "Very few law enforcement people have the opportunity to build a department from the ground up."

A significant amount of San Ramon police resources are focused on children and teens, who make up a third of the city's population. There are already three school resource officers at local schools, and another will soon be hired to work with San Ramon middle schools to address discipline, attendance and other issues. A total of four new officers are expected to be hired over the next year.

One area of concern is the recent rise in property crimes, especially stolen cars and burglaries. It is a statewide trend that Gorton attributes to the early release of nonviolent criminals from jails starting in 2012 under a new statewide mandate known as realignment. The department is addressing the problem by increasing surveillance in areas where crimes have occurred and using "bait cars" to catch criminals.

Mayor Bill Clarkson praised Gorton's people skills, calling him an all-around top choice for the department.

"Many of us have taken the citizens (police) academy and have seen the chief's human touch and good communication skills," Clarkson said. "Everyone is very happy to have him become our new permanent chief."

Gorton holds a degree in public administration and a master's degree in organizational development, both from USF.

Contact Karina Ioffee at 650-576-9626 or kioffee@bayareanewsgroup.com.



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