Wednesday was Greg Terry’s first full day as Bakersfield’s chief of police, having been selected Tuesday by City Manager Christian Clegg from a field of three. And what a time to start — in the midst of the worldwide outbreak of a killer virus.
As if, in this era of cyber crime and polarization across society, he didn’t have enough on his plate already.
But Chief Terry, 51, who has been serving as interim chief since December, is confident BPD has the right strategies and principles in place for him to be effective. Top of the list: Maintaining an ongoing and comprehensive dialog with the community.
The chief’s job is “not just a matter of putting officers on the street, it’s engaging in enforcement with the right strategies,” said Terry, a 23-year veteran of the BPD. “It really is talking to the community, listening to the community, and engaging them in a more comprehensive way so that they can help us identify the root causes and develop solutions.”
Terry says the addition of 100 new officers is a key part of that strategy. But with the economy tanking, is that plan in danger?
Terry says no.
“We’ve probably netted somewhere in the area of about 15 or 20 (new officers) so far this year, the net growth,” he said. “We’ve had actually more officers separate this year than normal. And so it’s a challenging goal, there’s no doubt about it.”
Terry, who is married with three grown children, said BPD is meticulously striving to keep officers safe from COVID-19 — and trying to encourage the community to take the virus seriously as well.
“Our philosophy and our focus has really been trying to encourage the community to comply,” Terry said. “And we’ve seen overwhelming compliance in the parks and in our neighborhoods and with the businesses as well. We’ve had a few complaints, but not many. And thankfully the community has responded and I think appropriately and understands the seriousness of the issue.”
As for his personal style, Terry says he’ll be more reserved than his predecessor but no less visible. Lyle Martin was known to sing and dance at charitable events. Terry says we will be seeing a lot of him too — but without the music soundtrack.
Terry began his law enforcement career in 1990 in his hometown of Lafayette, La., before joining BPD in 1997. He has experience in Patrol, the Special Enforcement Unit, Investigations, the Public Information Office and Internal Affairs, according to a department news release. He was promoted to Assistant Chief in 2017, overseeing the Operations, Investigations, and Support Services Divisions.
He has a Master’s Degree in Law Enforcement and Public Safety Leadership, a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice Administration, and is a graduate of the POST Command College Class 63, Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute Class 303, and POST Executive Development Course, according to a department news release.
Terry participates in the Bakersfield Police Activities League, Kern County Work Force Youth Committee, and the Kern County Network for Children Governing Board, according to a department news release. Terry is also a member of the Police Executive Research Forum, the California Police Chiefs Association, and the California Peace Officers Association.
Measure N funding — also known as the Public Safety & Vital Services Measure — should help improve police response times, reduce crime and increase neighborhood patrols, the department said.
BPD is also expected this spring to complete its rollout of a new body- worn camera program, which will outfit all officers with more than 400 cameras, or body-cams.