South Pasadena’s new police chief, Joe Ortiz, was publicly sworn-in Monday night at City Council chambers with a packed room of law enforcement officers throughout the region as well as family and friends.

So Pas Mayor Dr. Marina Khubesrian characterized the new police chief as “very thoughtful” just before administering the oath of office. This public ceremony was the second swearing in and was unofficial as Ortiz took the actual oath in a private ceremony April 1 administered by the head City Clerk Marc Donohue. The first ceremony April 1 was before city employees, members of the South Pasadena Police Department (SPPD), family and friends as well.

City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe introduced the mayor Monday night during the public ceremony, which was done for the benefit of the community, city officials said. Khubesrian then administered the oath and upon completion, the room exploded with a resounding ovation.

Ortiz, 55, former police chief in Sierra Madre, has already been introduced to segments of the community during various functions that include the So Pas Chamber of Commerce monthly ShopTalk breakfast meeting, a Fire Department catered lunch, a ceremony welcoming the new Pasadena City College president and the Public Safety Commission, to name just a few of the venues.

Ortiz has been in law enforcement for a quarter century, according to city officials, having served as the Sierra Madre police chief since 2017. Ortiz joined the Sierra Madre Police Department (SMPD) in 2010 as a patrol sergeant and rose up through the ranks, becoming captain of operations and support divisions in 2014.

Prior to Sierra Madre, he served as a detective and corporal in the Glendora Police Department for 17 years. He is a veteran of the Air Force and the Air National Guard.

Ortiz holds a Master of Science degree in Emergency Management and Bachelor of Arts in Occupational Studies from Cal State Long Beach, along with multiple certifications and professional affiliations. Ortiz is a resident of Claremont, married, with two adult sons, one of whom has followed in his law enforcement footsteps.

Ortiz also said that he was grateful for the support that the community affords the department.

“I am grateful for the community support,” he said during an earlier interview. “Grateful for the welcoming by City Hall as a new employee from the outside in. The welcome from my Police Department. I had my entire department show up yesterday. Whether they worked last night or the night before, they showed up to show their support. That says everything. That’s where we are at.”

As So Pas Chief, he will lead a department of 53, with 36 positions for sworn officers and 17 non-sworn staff members.

The city took about eight months to replace Art Miller, who left the SPPD after five years to take over the helm of the Peoria, Arizona Police Department. Miller came from the Los Angeles Police Department where he earned distinction as captain of the busy Metro Division.

The lengthy search to replace Miller was criticized by some residents and community leaders when DeWolfe decided not to have a community-based panel interview qualified applicants. Moreover, some on the city’s Public Safety Commission questioned DeWolfe taking so long to replace Miller, saying it’s arguably the most important position in the city and should not be subjected to such a time-lapse.

There were 21 qualified applicants that were considered before the field was narrowed down to seven individuals that were interviewed by two panels. The two panels were a professional panel comprised of sworn law enforcement executives and a city employee panel comprised of South Pasadena city workers.

The process to replace Miller, who left the city Aug. 18, 2018,  included an open recruitment process that lasted from November to just before Christmas of last year, followed by the two interview panels, and then DeWolfe’s final interviews.

There were seven individuals interviewed by the two panels, which narrowed the field down to four. Those four people were interviewed by DeWolfe. She made the final decision.

City officials also contracted with Teri Black & Company, an 18-year professional recruiter, to spearhead the search and process. Black held two public meetings to gather public input as to the qualities So Pas residents wanted in their top law enforcement officer as well as an online survey. City officials say 81 people participated in the survey.

Black wrote those qualities on paper and posted them on a board during the public meetings. Ortiz has apparently taken those papers, framed them, and have them hanging in his new So Pas Police Chief office.

Solinsky, who was the acting chief during the search and applied for the position, said Ortiz is a strong addition to the local department and will continue to move it forward in a positive direction.

“Chief Ortiz is a welcome addition to the ranks of the South Pasadena Police Department,” Solinsky said in an earlier email to The Review. “I have had several conversations with him about our organization, other city departments, and the community. He values the partnerships the organization has developed in the City and looks to strengthen and increase others. Chief Ortiz really understands community policing and the expectations South Pasadena has for its Police Department. With his law enforcement background and experience, Chief Ortiz has the skillset to lead the Police Department in the right direction and accomplish great things. I am looking forward to his leadership and working with him.”

Ortiz’s base salary will be about $13,058 a month, which is about 156,696 a year, according to city officials.

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Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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