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Walnut Creek police chief Joel Bryden at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Monday, June 30, 2008. (Bob Larson/Contra Costa Times)

WALNUT CREEK -- Joel Bryden, who has been Walnut Creek's police chief since June 2008, confirmed Thursday he plans to retire in the next six to eight months.

A June 2013 departure would give him exactly five years on the job in Walnut Creek.

Bryden, who will be 56 when he leaves, said he promised former City Manager Gary Pokorny he would stay five years, "and I'm living up to my word," Bryden said.

"It just feels like the right time," he said, noting there was no single factor driving his decision. He will stay at least as long as it takes to find his successor, he said, and plans to stay in Walnut Creek.

He told his officers of his plans Wednesday via email.

Bryden succeeded Tom Soberanes, who had retired nine months earlier. Before coming to Walnut Creek, Bryden had been assistant police chief in San Diego, where he worked for 28 years, starting as a patrol officer. He was that department's assistant chief when he left.

He cited working to keep Walnut Creek's crime rate relatively low as his greatest accomplishment in his five years. Mayor Bob Simmons agreed that Bryden's role in keeping Walnut Creek a safe city was a notable achievement, especially given the city's budget situation over the past few years.

"This has been a very, very tough four years for anyone at the city level, and the chief has made good adjustments" to changing financial conditions, Simmons said.


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Those conditions brought about some police department cuts. Bryden said that, before he retires, he will work to add as many officer and staff positions to the department as possible and that he wants the motorcycle traffic enforcement team back on the street soon.¿

A Thursday morning posting on the Facebook page of the Walnut Creek Police Association -- which comprises all sworn department officers minus Bryden -- said Bryden's upcoming retirement is emblematic of other problems within the department, including a pending wave of retirements and other departures.

"Many officers we have worked hard to hire and train are also searching for employment elsewhere," the Facebook post said. "We are quite simply facing a crisis, and our leaders cannot continue to look the other way."

A message left for a police association spokesperson had not been returned by Thursday afternoon.

In July, Bryden laid out a strategic, five-year department plan in which he was to ask the City Council for at least one officer a year for the next five years. Much of that, he said, was to prepare for an expected influx of new residents to downtown Walnut Creek, where more than 1,400 apartment units are set to be built in the next few years. That plan has not yet been taken up by the council.

While Bryden said the association's post contains some valid concerns, he said his decision to retire soon had nothing to do with any issues brought up in that post. And both he and Simmons said they were hesitant to respond to the post, which does not have an individual's name tied to it.