Brentwood's Top Cop31 July 2018 Written by By Police Chief Thomas Hansen
Published in August 2018 Articles
APPLYING THREE DECADES OF EXPERIENCE TO MAKING OUR PD EVEN GREATER
On April 1, 2017 I became the acting Brentwood Police Chief and on December 16 the position was made official. This followed 22 years of previous experience with the department. When I joined in 1994, the PD had a total of 14 officers — a number that has now grown to 66 positions.
I’m delighted to serve in this capacity because the department has a well-deserved reputation for its progressive attitude. We are able to attract good people because candidates appreciate the sense of concern and value that members of the PD have for the community.
I remained in the department for two decades because our leaders have created a culture of doing things right and of achieving excellence in training, equipment, and administration. City leaders have continually made Public Safety a priority. Gus Vina the City Manager, plus Mayor Taylor and members of the city council put Public Safety at the top of their agenda.
I’m setting department priorities based upon the needs and wishes of the people we serve. Our biggest and loudest complaints have to do with traffic issues. I served four years as a motorcycle cop, so I understand the issues. We focus on school safety and are building relationships with school administrators in order to collaborate on school safety. We also focus on recruiting police officers from a diminishing pool of highly qualified candidates. Fewer people aspire to be cops than in the past. I am providing the best training and state-of-the-art equipment available to keep my officers safe in an environment that is much different than when I was a patrol cop.
I was born in San Francisco in 1966 as the second youngest of four children. In 1986 I enrolled in Diablo Valley College and got a part time job as a Liquor Barn cashier. When the holidays rolled around, the company hired some seasonal help. One of them was a Walnut Creek Detective named Mike Gorman. We became friends and he invited me on a ride-along. Mike was working patrol and it turned out to be a busy shift. Not only did I enjoy all the excitement, but I also realized what an opportunity and honor it would be to actually provide the kind of help and to perform the acts of service that I saw from Mike that night. He maintained a kind and professional spirit. Three decades later I can still remember his conduct while consoling victims at a crash site.
By the end of the ride, I knew that I had discovered what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, so Mike told me he would get me in touch with the reserve volunteer PD program at the Walnut Creek Police Department. I learned that it would require 185 hours of classroom training at Los Medanos College. I enrolled and discovered that every aspect of law enforcement — including such things as patrol techniques, weaponless defense, and tactical communication — served to reinforce my ambition to become a cop.
In July 1987 Walnut Creek hired me as a reserve police officer. I was only twenty and they couldn’t issue me a gun until I was twenty-one. I spent the intervening time involved in some training and on October 28, 1987, I blew out the 21 candles on my birthday cake, strapped on my Smith & Wesson 357 revolver, and signed up for my first shift as a reserve officer with the Walnut Creek PD.
Reserve officers are authorized to carry out all the tasks and responsibilities of a fulltime member of the police force, but work in tandem with a full time field-training officer. After three months my first phase of training ended and I was assigned to Scott Hansen who turned out to be a perfectionist and who demanded perfection from me. Scott illustrated the excellence he intended to develop in his young reserve officer. Following three months with Scott, I was due to be released from training. I was still working fulltime at Liquor Barn, attending college, and volunteering 20 hours a week with the PD. The week before I completed training, I took a series of written tests and missed three on the CODE section test out of more than 100 questions. Scott told me that I would take the test again in three days and if I missed only one he would release me from the program. I felt devastated! I had been bonding with my fellow officers and this was the career I was moving towards, so I made sure that when I took the test again I would get every answer right.
“AFTER A COUPLE YEARS AS A PATROL OFFICER, THINGS CHANGED WHEN SERGEANT DAVIES RECEIVED A QUARTER-MILLION DOLLAR GRANT TO FUND THE DEPARTMENT’S FIRST MOTORCYCLE PATROLS.”
Afterwards Scott said that our job is hard because there are so many elements not within our control, which means that we must strive to perform perfectly those things that we can control. Scott liked to say, “The better trained; the better the outcome.”
I completed six years as a reserve officer only to be told that Walnut Creek would never hire me without a bachelor’s degree, so I applied with the Oakland PD, which didn’t have that standard. My older brother Mark told me that he didn’t want me go to Oakland. If I enrolled in school he would pay my first semester costs plus my rent, so I transferred to a Liquor Barn on Arden Way in Sacramento and enrolled at Sac State. Each weekend I would spend a couple shifts with the Walnut Creek PD. I graduated December 1993 with a degree in Criminal Justice. The experience provided me with more than classroom learning because I had opportunities to connect with people from various socio-economic backgrounds and discovered some facts about life that I hadn’t learned during my sheltered upbringing — or would ever have learned.
“A SENSE OF LOYALTY IN MY HEART FOR THE DEPARTMENT AND THE CITY WAS BORN IN THAT INCIDENT AND HAS NEVER GONE AWAY.”
Two weeks following graduation, I enrolled in the Police Academy at Los Medanos College and spent six months learning police work on much tougher and more demanding levels than at the reserve academy. I formed some friendships at the police academy that remain strong to this day.
Following graduation, I applied to the Walnut Creek PD but they turned me down. I tested with Brentwood and was put on an eligibility list, but finally accepted a position with the Kensington PD. Kensington is a small town in West County with a population of 10,000 and a police department with ten officers. We went on patrol by ourselves so didn’t develop much rapport with each other. Kensington is a nice community; our calls were usually about things like traffic complaints and domestic violence.
On October 1995 the wife of a fellow cop set me up on a blind date with Diane Browne. I first saw her sitting at a table, dressed in a nice suit, and was struck by her beauty. We had a great first date and I was impressed with her smart and witty personality. We dated for a year and a half and were married August 16, 1997. Our 11-year-old daughter Emma is smart, beautiful, and athletic.
Following a year at Kensington the Brentwood PD contacted me. The move to Brentwood required a small pay drop but I was attracted to the town and especially to the people I would be working with. At the time Sergeant Davies and Lieutenant Misquez ran the department. I was impressed with their clear vision of what the city was going to become in the years ahead and wanted to be part of that. I went through the application and interview process and was hired June 1995.
After a couple years as a patrol officer, things changed when Sergeant Davies received a quarter-million dollar grant to fund the department’s first motorcycle patrols. I had ridden dirt bikes as a kid, so I tested for the position and was assigned a Kawasaki KZ-1000. I was supposed to undergo two days training with a couple Pleasanton cops but spent one of the days in court, so I started my first shift as a motorcycle cop with only eight hours training. A month later I enrolled in the Motorcycle Basic Academy in San Bernardino County. The program was designed to hone motorcycle skills. I didn’t have any skills, so I failed out the first week because I couldn’t pass the tests. I returned to Brentwood with my tail between my legs and imagined I had lost my chance. However, Sergeant Davies and Chief Shaw knew that I was committed and really wanted the job. Sergeant Davies told me that I could get the required pre-training and they would send me back.
In order to improve my skills, I bought a used police KZ-1000 from a retired policeman for $1,000 and faithfully rode that thing every night after work. A couple motor cops from the Walnut Creek PD helped me. They set up cones at Buchanan Airport and worked with me until I could pass all the tests.
Three months later I returned to the motor school, passed without a problem, and graduated on a Friday morning. The next morning a CHP officer, who was going to attend the school, asked if she could buy my bike. I told her I would sell it for $800. I went to the garage, cleaned it up, and decided to take it for one last ride. As I pulled out of the garage, the throttle stuck. In blind panic I grabbed the front brake and flipped the motorcycle over, which landed on me fracturing my right arm and breaking my left leg and left wrist. Only 18 hours after graduating from motor school and following two weeks of extensive training, I had grabbed the brake instead of pulling in the clutch. (I still think about that.)
Sergeant Davies, Chief Shaw, and Lieutenant Misquez had given me a shot and I had failed them. They still believed in me, however, and hired a reserve police officer, Hugh Henderson, to do traffic while I recovered. A sense of loyalty in my heart for the department and the city was born in that incident and has never gone away.
After getting a clean bill of health, Sergeant Davies told me, “The motorcycle is yours. Come back.” Then he asked, “Are you going to get on?” I was actually more committed than ever, so I climbed on the bike and spent the next four years as a motorcycle cop until 2001, when I was promoted to Sergeant.
I loved my work and felt I was doing a good job for the city, so I was surprised when I walked into the police station and found an envelope marked CONFIDENTIAL in my inbox. It turned out to be from Tom Soberanes, the Walnut Creek Police Chief, inviting me to interview for a police officer position — the very job I had spent most of my adult life wishing for and dreaming about. Walnut Creek cops made a lot more money at that time. Plus, all my softball friends were there and the commute from our Pleasant Hill home would be a lot easier. Nevertheless, I called Chief Soberanes and told him that I was going to make my career working for the Brentwood PD. The fact is, the decision was easy because of the way the administration had stood by me through those difficult times. They believed in me. In return, I believed in them and believed in the city. I was happy with the decision I made and proud to serve this community as Chief of the Brentwood Police Department.
Photos By Muhammad Saadiq