National City has passed the baton to Manuel Rodriguez who will be calling the shots as the new chief of police for National City.
Rodriguez replacies Adolfo Gonzales, who is now the head of the Bureau of Investigation at the District Attorney’s office.
Rodriguez, a National City native, was named chief March 22 but was formally introduced March 26.
Rodriguez, 53, brings more than 20 years of service in law enforcement, most recently serving as the special assistant to the chief of police since 2007.
Before that, he worked for the San Diego Police Department where he served the city of San Diego as a sergeant in the criminal intelligence unit and a service area lieutenant.
He’s been part of the National City Police Department since 2005.
Rodriguez said he is the first in- house candidate ever to be named National City’s police chief.
National City Mayor Ron Morrison said appointing Rodriguez as the new police chief made sense.
“(Chief Gonzales) had been training and bringing him (Rodriguez) up,” Morrison said. “It just made for a natural succession.”
There were no other candidates for the job or a need to conduct a nationwide search, Morrison added.
City Manager Leslie Deese, who made the offer to Rodriguez, said she considered conducting a candidate search but felt Rodriguez was perfect for the job.
Deese said when the city hired Chief Gonzales nine years ago, they spent about $25,000 to conduct a national search.
In not doing so this time, the city is saving money.
Rodriguez credits his predecessor for paving the way for him.
“When things are going good in a department, most cities will higher from within, but when the department is going through tough times cities will look outside,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez will be responsible for managing the police department’s $21.5 million budget and handling a staff of 180, including 80 sworn officers.
He said the task of managing the budget is going to be difficult with the district tax soon expiring because of the sunset clause, which says a law must cease after a specific date.
“The district tax has been beneficial,” he said. “With the tax we’ve only had to cut 12 percent of our department. If we didn’t have it, I can’t imagine how many more cuts we’d have to make,” he said.
National City’s district tax is the total statewide sales tax rate plus an extra one percent at the local level. The extra tax revenue goes into the city’s general fund.
Rodriguez said that as police chief, he wants to remain involved with the community through community outreaches, much like his predecessor did.
“Having the community not be afraid of the police is a good thing,” he said. “If the perception is the police don’t care about you, then the community can’t trust its own police force.”
Morrison said Rodriguez will bring continuity to the police department and community.
“Chief Rodriguez is a known commodity,” Morrison said. “He is homegrown and someone who the community knows well.”
Rodriguez described his new position as his “dream job.”
“I am very honored and greatful for this opportunity,” Rodriguez said. “Very few people get to be chief of police in a city, especially being Latino and of color.”
Deese said financial terms of Rodriguez’s contract are still being worked out, though they are close to an agreement.
Gonzales’s annual salary was $153,000.