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Dave Waddell's LTE

Letter: Culture change needed at Chico Police Department


July 23, 2023 at 3:41 a.m.

Re: “Excessive force lawsuit filed against Chico police”: In 2015, departing interim Chico Police Chief Mike Dunbaugh wrote a memo to the City Council. That memo, which leaked, made two points:

(1) That Chico PD’s failure to maintain healthy community relations was “extreme.”

(2) That police culture contained “a significant ‘good ole boy’ faction within … or, at a minimum, the strong perception of one.”

That culture had rendered the department without a single female above the rank of police officer. Shockingly but not surprisingly, the better part of a decade later, the same is true today. Females are excluded from leadership at Chico PD.

Ol’ boy Mike O’Brien succeeded Dunbaugh as chief, and the guy O’Brien called his “wing man,” ol’ boy Matt Madden, came next. The sadly regressive O’Brien/Madden regime abandoned the reforms Dunbaugh envisioned.

I perused the Police Department’s employee list. Relative to size, Chico PD is obese with sergeants. I found 14 sergeants listed: Justin, Dave, Mark, Nick, Peter, Marcelo, Tony, Dane, Scott, Todd, John, Paul, Joel and Cody. All men. Almost all white men. As best I know, they are all Chico PD long-timers. Do they fit Dunbaugh’s definition of “‘ol boys”? I don’t know.

I do know that Chico will have a better police department with women in positions of leadership. If that were to finally happen, I predict the city’s taxpayers will have to contend with far fewer lawsuits over killings and over the roughing up of 95-pound female teenagers with broken arms.

— Dave Waddell, Chico

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