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Union City selects new police chief

Department veteran Stewart only person interviewed for position

By Matthew Artz, Staff writer.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area: The Argus.

UNION CITY—Thirty-one years ago, Capt. Greg Stewart joined Union City as a dogcatcher. Come December, he will become the city's top cop.

In a widely expected move Tuesday, the City Council unanimously named Stewart, 51, to succeed Chief Randy Ulibarri, who is expected to step down at the end of the year.

Stewart, a Fremont resident and 28-year Union City Police

Department veteran, was the only person interviewed for the position.

"I'm extremely gratified the City Council feels that I am qualified to take over," Stewart said. "I'm looking forward to moving the department forward and building on the accomplishments that have been occurring in the past five years."

When the council first made the announcement, about 30 un-

iformed officers applauded. Mayor Mark Green said, "Obviously, we thought it was an excellent choice by the city manager."

City Manager Larry Cheeves canceled a statewide search for the city's next police chief after he interviewed Stewart, who already had the public support of Ulibarri and several council members.

"(Greg) is experienced and knowledgeable in police services, and well respected among the command staff and the rank and file of the police department," Cheeves said.

"He will be an outstanding chief for this city," he added.

Stewart becomes Union City's third consecutive police chief hired from within the department, a trend that started in 1987 when Al Guzman was promoted to chief.

As far as who will succeed Stewart as captain in charge of field operations—and maybe one day as chief—Cheeves said Stewart will make that call.

Stewart inherits a department that is young—about one-third of the officers have less than five years of experience, he said—and whose funding is hardly ensured.

Measure K, a special tax that raises roughly $2.5 million a year to help pay for police and fire services, expires in 2009, and Stewart knows the measure's renewal by voters is key to his plans for the department.

"The major issues I see are gangs and getting school resource officers back in the (middle) schools," he said. "I think we need to reach out to youth."

To that end, Stewart will continue the department's efforts to implement an education and training program geared toward reducing the allure of gangs.

He also will try to follow through on getting the department a new headquarters and start work on forming a professional standards unit.

The unit would provide more oversight and training for officers who are not meeting the department's conduct standards, Stewart said.

"There are behaviors that we want to foster. If someone is exhibiting behaviors contrary to that, this would give us a chance to sit down with them and avert problems before they occur."

One Union City police officer is now a defendant in a federal civil rights lawsuit, and the City Council has been asked to review a recent complaint of police misconduct.

Historically, the department has had strained relations with the largely Latino Decoto district. Decoto resident Jessie "JJ" Amaya said the city should stop promoting chiefs from within.

"Until we get someone from outside the area, things will never change," Amaya said.

Stewart, who attends Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church in the Decoto district, said the department has "a very good" relationship with Decoto residents.

A San Leandro native, Stewart said he didn't grow up dreaming of being a police officer. He enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, to study electrical engineering, but left after one year when he decided the major wasn't for him.

In 1975, he took a job as an animal control cadet in Union City. A year later, he graduated from Ohlone College [emphasis added] in Fremont with an associate degree in administrative justice. He worked for one year as a sheriff's deputy before joining the Union City force as an officer in 1978.

While working for Union City, Stewart completed his bachelor's degree in criminal justice and a master's in public administration from California State University, East Bay, in Hayward. He was promoted to sergeant in 1986, lieutenant in 1996 and captain in 2000, the latter one of Ulibarri's first decisions as chief.

"I'm extremely happy for Greg," Ulibarri said. "He has worked extremely hard for this promotion. His heart and soul are with Union City."

Ulibarri called him "a good friend, a good cop and a good leader, and I can't think of a better person to turn over the reins of the Union City Police Department to."

Stewart's salary as chief will have to be negotiated with the city manager, said Administrative Services Director Rich Digree. The base salary for a police chief in Union City is $13,200 a month, but because Stewart makes $13,521 a month as a captain, he is expected to make more than the chief's base salary.

Stewart could retire in two years with maximum pension, but said that he promised Cheeves he would serve as chief for at least five years.

Staff writer Matthew Artz covers Union City for the Argus. He can be reached at (510) 353-7003 or martz@angnewspapers.com.

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