Bishop Police Chief Kathleen Sheehan said the area has given her the breath of fresh air and healing she was searching for, and now it’s time for her to move on.
Sheehan announced her resignation on Wednesday. Her last day before becoming the new Chief of Police for Port Hueneme will be Friday, Sept. 17.
Sheehan arrived in Bishop in December 2007, arriving in the Eastern Sierra just 13 days after leaving the Middle East. She explained in an interview Thursday that, after spending two years as part of a special U.S. Department of Justice international police training team traveling throughout war-torn and terrorist-threatened areas of the world, “I’d seen too much and decided to come home.”
Now she is healed and is moving on for personal reasons.
Her departure is not unexpected, as she said when she was hired that her stay in Bishop would be short.
And, she is making headlines in Ventura County as being the first female police chief for Port Hueneme.
But, Sheehan’s used to the spotlight. With nearly 30 years experience in law enforcement, she spent the first 25 climbing the career ladder at the Los Angeles Police Department. In 1995, she was labeled a “whistle blower” after pulling the lid off of then-LAPD Police Chief Willie Williams’ abuse of his position. She claimed Williams used theft, extortive conduct, mismanaged funds, received favors and gifts and abused his power.
Sheehan said she continued on with the LAPD for another five years after the incident but, in retaliation, she was systematically ignored for promotion and harassed. In 1997, she filed charges against members of the LAPD for harassment, defamation and discrimination.
Sheehan eventually quit the LAPD, joining the DOJ team to help train police officers in places like Indonesia and Pakistan, but also use her expertise in gang investigations and internal corruption. She worked to deter corruption within the Muslim Pakistani Police Department in a country where, she said, police are the focus of attacks by terrorists. She said the terrorists want to be in charge and they see the police as a threat, and the Americans training them as an even bigger threat.
A witness to several suicide bombings and other carnage, Sheehan said she also noticed other Americans working in the region were “losing their identity.” She said there is so much fear and lack of trust for Americans working overseas, it was leading to suicide for some of her co-workers.
“I had to go,” Sheehan said. “I needed to be around other Americans. At the time, Bishop was exactly what I needed.”
She said what she needs now is to be closer to friends and family in Southern California. She was also very frank in explaining that her move will provide “a better financial future for her.”
Sheehan said that she is not leaving the Bishop PD in dire straits, financially or otherwise. “I’m leaving it in great hands.”
She said she has personal confidence in the officers and staff at the Bishop PD. “They don’t need correcting, they just need support.”
In fact, during her reign, crime has dropped 37 percent, and, the department has “increased the trust of the community at-large by the same percentage.” Sheehan noted the stronger connection between the department and community as one of her accomplishments during her stay. She added that the PD’s K-9 unit is also a highlight of her career in Bishop.
First and foremost among her accomplishments, she noted, would be the friends and connections she’s made in the area, both professional and personal.
She has been very active in the community and various charities, particularly the Inyo Mono Association for the Handicapped. The organization is not one of the charities she is used to working with, but she said she plans on looking for similar charities and groups down the road.
Returning to Southern California will allow Sheehan to work closer to her favorite charities. She is the director of Project Mexico for the World Children’s Transplant Fund, providing training and equipment to doctors and institutes. She is also part of WattStar, an organization bringing a museum, theater and cultural center to South Central Los Angeles. WattStar plans to break ground on the center later this year.