The Upland Police Department’s officers and management unions have strongly endorsed one of their own to become the next chief of police, replacing outgoing Chief Darren Goodman.
In no uncertain terms, the Upland Police Management Association and the Upland Police Officers Association have publicly thrown their support behind Capt. Marcelo Blanco, who has been a member of the Upland police force for 30 years.
Blanco, who is very familiar with the city and its officers, was slotted into the role of acting chief on April 28 by City Manager Michael Blay. Blanco will be positioned there at least until May 31 when Goodman leaves the city’s payroll.
Goodman is using vacation and leave time until he starts his job as chief of police for the city of San Bernardino on June 1.
Goodman recommended Blanco take his place, part of what city officials called his department succession plan. The department consists of 67 sworn officers with 78 budgeted positions, and 11 vacancies. The decision is up to Blay, who said on April 21 that he had “the utmost confidence in his (Blanco’s) ability to lead the Police Department forward and provide exemplary public safety services.”
While that comes as close to making a decision without actually making a decision, statements from the two Police department unions leave no doubt.
“We fully support his (Goodman’s) recommendation for Capt. Marcelo Blanco to be our next chief of police,” said Detective Christopher Delaney, president of the Upland Police Officers Association in a public declaration at the April 25 City Council meeting.
On Friday, May 6, during an interview, Delaney elaborated on the rank-and-file officers’ stand.
“Yes, it is the general consensus of all our members. They all agree the best way to move forward is with Capt. Blanco at the helm,” Delaney said.
He said he continued to press forward by having lunch with Blay recently to tell the city manager the officer’s unanimous choice.
Likewise, the police management union also wants Blay to appoint Blanco as the permanent chief of police.
“Both our groups support his appointment as the chief. We would rather see it permanent, not temporary. Because temporary or interim means we are looking for someone else,” said Sgt. Moe Duran, president of the police management union.
Duran said Friday it wasn’t necessary for the city to conduct a search nor bring in an outsider. The management worked well with Goodman and Blanco fits into the former chief’s system.
“Our concern is bringing in another head to change the way we do things,” Duran said.
Blanco himself appears ready to get the call.
“I was the No. 2 guy for Chief Goodman for the last two years. He was a coach and mentor to me. There is no reason to make any substantive changes to where we are going,” Blanco said Friday.
There has not been any movement, nor any ask of the City Council to hire a recruitment agency or set up a search team, Mayor Bill Velto said Friday. “I’ve never heard anything about it. I don’t see a reason for it,” he said.
In the last seven years, the city has gone through several permanent and interim police chiefs.
In March 2015, following Chief Jeff Mendenhall’s retirement the previous year, from a pool of 10 candidates the city hired Brian Johnson, a 26-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department. It marked the first time in the city’s history a police chief from outside the department was hired.
Johnson’s tenure lasted a little more than two years. He received a no confidence vote from the police officers union reportedly stemming from a fight with members of his senior command staff. His take on unhoused people at Memorial Park was seen as too lenient. And a pro-medical marijuana group said he stole political campaign signs supporting a ballot measure to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Upland.
Duran said Johnson’s “LAPD style” was not a good fit in Upland. That is in contrast to Goodman, who worked for 27 years in the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, where many Upland police officers were trained or are from, before coming to lead the city’s department in June 2018, Duran said.
“Chief Goodman did a phenomenal job with us. Blanco was working hand-in-hand with Chief Goodman. That being said, our concern is bringing in another head to change the way we do things,” Duran said.
Delaney echoed Duran’s concerns of disrupting the vibe of the department.
“He (Blanco) will keep the department the same and things are running smooth,” Delaney said. “The department is at an all-time high in morale.”