Dan Steidle will be replacing the previous chief, Jim Tasa, who retired in November. (Courtesy Photo)

New top cop to take reins of Pacifica police

A Peninsula lawman with 22 years experience at Pacifica Police Department has ascended to that agency’s top spot.

Dan Steidle was recently hired as the town’s new chief of police, following a lengthy selection process initiated after the previous chief, Jim Tasa, retired in November. He is scheduled to be sworn in during Monday’s City Council meeting.

Steidle, 46, who was a captain at the time of Tasa’s retirement, had spent several months serving as the Pacifica Police Department’s interim chief. Prior to that, Pacifica Police Capt. Joseph Spanheimer was tapped to serve as interim chief, heading the department through February before turning over the temporary reins to Steidle.

Having Spanheimer and Steidle take turns acting as interim chief created the impression among some residents that both men were auditioning for the permanent police chief position.

City Manager Lorie Tinfow clarified Steidle was one of 26 candidates from around the western United States who applied for the job — and Spanheimer ultimately decided not to apply.

The selection process involved hiring a recruiting firm. There were multiple interviews conducted by panels comprised of city managers and police chiefs from other cities, with input from other local officials, Tinfow said.

“I want the best to join Pacifica,” the city manager noted, “Luckily, I found the best candidate to become the police chief was already here.”

Steidle is married and a father of three. He began his law enforcement career in 1989, volunteering as a reserve officer at the Pinole Police Department. Steidle said his experiences in Pinole, which has less than half the population of Pacifica, impressed upon him the positive impact one dedicated cop can have in a small town.

In 1990, Steidle became a deputy with the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff’s departments sometimes start their new deputies off by having them work as corrections officers in local jails, and Steidle said his three-years at the Contra Costa County Jail’s Martinez Detention Facility allowed him to learn some of the “street knowledge” he didn’t pick up as a high school athlete and honors student.

Steidle joined the Pacifica police department in 1993, serving in a variety of capacities as he rose through the ranks.

Some law enforcement officials blame the Bay Area’s recent uptick in property crime on the passage of Proposition 47, a California law that reduced some types of thefts from felonies to misdemeanors. Steidle said his organization is using a variety of strategies to reduce the property crime trend’s impact on Pacifica.

Arrest records have shown a significant percentage of home burglaries on the Peninsula are committed by individuals and groups from San Francisco and Oakland, Steidle said. Sharing data with other San Mateo County police agencies makes it easier to know when and where such criminals might strike.

“It’s all about intelligence-led policing,” the chief noted.

Location often provides a clue as to who is committing property crimes, Steidle said. Burglaries occurring along the Highwaty 35 Skyline Boulevard corridor tend to be committed by out-of-towners who cross city limits throughout San Mateo County, Steidle explained.

On the other hand, Steidle said burglaries in the more geographically isolated parts of town, like Linda Mar, normally prompt police to take a hard look at the city’s known local criminals.

Civic engagement will be a top priority for Steidle, who said police can’t be effective without community buy-in.

“One of the gauges I always had was asking the local 7-Eleven employees if they knew the name of the officer on the beat,” Steidle said, “If they answer no, then you know you have a problem.”

The salary range for the chief of police position is $13,913 to $16,000 per month, according to Joya Perez of Pacifica’s Human Resources Department.

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