DOWNTOWN — Deputy Police Chief Phil Sanchez, a 29-year-veteran of the Santa Monica Police Department, is close to becoming Pasadena’s next top cop, according to reports.

Sanchez currently overseas the day-to-day operations of the SMPD and was responsible for coordinating security and planning for the Los Angeles Marathon, which ended in Santa Monica for the first time in the race’s history, bringing tens of thousands of runners and spectators to town.

City officials with Pasadena, a middle class suburb of Los Angeles with more than 148,000 residents and a bustling Downtown much like Santa Monica’s, would not comment on the finalists for the job, citing a confidentiality clause. Santa Monica City Hall followed the same procedure when selecting replacements for top positions, including city manager and fire chief.

However, several media outlets based in Pasadena reported last week that Sanchez is a finalist, along with the city’s interim chief, Chris Vicino. Austin, Texas Chief Art Acevedo was also said to be in the running but he announced last week that he was no longer an applicant. Acevedo is a former CHP officer and a onetime resident of Pasadena. He is rumored to be one of six finalists for the top cop job in Dallas, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

Sanchez could not be reached for comment.

A spokesperson for Pasadena said City Manager Michael Beck is creating a citizen’s committee to conduct interviews with the finalists and a decision should be made in May.

If selected, Sanchez would oversee a police force comprised of 246 sworn officers with a budget of roughly $60 million. The top salary for a chief in Pasadena is just over $212,000.

Pasadena reportedly had 66 applicants for the job, then cut that down to nine with the help of Bob Murray & Associates, a private search firm. A 16-person panel picked the three finalists from that group.

Pasadena’s City Manager Beck came under fire from some community members for keeping the names of panel participants secret until the finalists were picked. The panel had only six community members compared to 10 members that were either police department employees, police chiefs from other cities or city department heads, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

Ann Erdman, public information officer for Pasadena, said a similar selection process was used to pick the former police chief.

“There will be an opportunity for everyone” to weigh in, Erdman said.

Sanchez is the first deputy chief in the SMPD’s history and has held a variety of command duties throughout his career, including stints in Internal Affairs, Criminal Investigations Division and Operations.

Sanchez has an extensive background in police tactics and special operations. In 1991, he developed the SMPD’s Special Entry Team (SWAT) and he is recognized as an expert in the use of deadly force and tactics.

In March 2009, Sanchez graduated from the Naval postgraduate School, Center for Homeland Defense and Security with his master’s in security studies.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Redlands and is a graduate of the Senior Management Institute for Police, Federal Bureau of Investigations — National Academy, the Peace Officer Standards and Training — Executive Development, and Command College for Executive Leadership, where he received top honors as the most inspirational leader of his cohort.

Sanchez has twice been awarded the department’s Medal of Courage for heroic actions during tactical operations. He was also awarded the department’s Medal of Merit for creating the SWAT team. Sanchez has numerous departmental commendations and has been honored as the officer of the year by several Santa Monica service organizations. He is involved in many local partnerships with nonprofit organizations to address homelessness and frequently speaks to elementary, middle, and high school students on a variety of topics, including personal safety, substance abuse, civil rights and government.

SMPD Sgt. Jay Trisler, president of the union representing Santa Monica’s rank and file, said if Sanchez is selected it “would be a great loss for our department.”

“He would make a great candidate to take over the reigns of the police department if [Chief Tim] Jackman were to retire,” Trisler said. “He’s an outstanding individual and it will be our loss and their gain if he were to get the position.”

kevinh@www.smdp.com

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