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Police Chief Dave Bertini surprised the Menlo Park City Council during a meeting Thursday to address concerns about local police by unexpectedly announcing that the city needed a “fresh start” and he would step down at the end of July.
The chief’s stunner followed a community meeting and council session to get public input and discuss police practices.
“The only thing I can really say is I hear you. All police officers are hurting right now based on actions that happened a thousand miles away from us,” Bertini told the council during the teleconferenced meeting.
“It’s obvious to me that I’ve lost the trust of the city council … hopefully (my retirement) will give this organization a fresh start.”Police Chief Dave Bertini
“I’m sorry to say I will be announcing my retirement,” the chief said, adding “It’s obvious to me that I’ve lost the trust of the city council … hopefully (my retirement) will give this organization a fresh start.”
Following the chief’s announcement, Mayor Cecilia Taylor said “This is the first I’ve heard of this” and called for a short recess.
When members returned, Taylor said “emotions were raw” over the issue, adding “I respect the chief and if the chief believes that a fresh start is necessary, I believe him.” The council then adjourned the meeting and went into closed session on the grounds that it needed to discuss an urgent personnel matter.
During the meeting before the chief’s announcement, some public speakers had called for defunding the police department to divert money to community programs.
In addition, council members had discussed asking for more data on the department’s staffing, police stops, overtime and mutual aid provided to other area departments.
Vice Mayor Drew Combs said “there’s obviously an issue when it comes to the interaction between the police in our community and people of color. There’s an issue at the national level but there’s also an issue in our community.”
Although Bertini told the council he would retire effective July 30, he agreed to stay after that date in order to ensure a smooth transition, City Manager Starla Jerome-Robinson said after the meeting. A revised date for Bertini’s departure has not been announced.
Jerome-Robinson said Bertini had been “a valued leader, instructor and eminent law enforcement professional” and she was grateful for his service and willingness to stay on and work through the challenging time.
The city manager said Bertini would make a statement in the coming days.
Bertini is from Pacifica, where his law enforcement career began as a police explorer over 30 years ago. He joined Menlo Park’s force in 2011 as police commander before being named interim police chief in January 2018. Bertini has served as the city’s permanent police chief since July 2018.