The City of Bishop has a new police chief.
Chris Carter, who has been with the department for seven years and has acted as interim-chief since the departure of Kathleen Sheehan in September, was officially given the top cop job this month and sworn in before a packed house Monday at City Hall.
The first three rows of the Council Chambers were reserved for Carter’s friends, family and fellow law enforcement brothers, and every seat was full. Some had traveled more than six hours to speak praise for Carter and laud the council and city for making such a good choice for the position.
BPD Officer Danny Nolan said he spoke on behalf of the other officers in the department in saying they looked forward to years of great work with Carter. He added that the large turnout of support and the distance many had driven to see Carter sworn in was a testament to the man’s quality of his character.
Retired Chief Joe Pecsi told the council they had made a good choice with Carter.
There were others in attendance who credited Carter with being a mentor to many, in addition to being a fine officer.
“I’d go through a door with him any day,” said one officer.
Carter was sworn in by Assistant City Clerk Denise Gillespie. He said he was honored to be included with the fellow department heads.
Carter grew up in a small mountain town in rural North Carolina. After high school graduation he joined the U.S. Army and served in the Military Police Corps on active duty. Following active duty, he joined the Barstow Police Department, working up the ranks as a patrol officer, to field supervisor, to investigator. He also served on the SWAT Team, worked as an academy instructor, conducted internal investigations, and taught Firearms and Weaponless Defense.
During his two-decade stint at Barstow, he also served in the California National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve while continuing his formal education, earning a degree in Administration of Justice.
“Basically, I had a really great 20-year career with that department,” Carter said via e-mail.
In 2003, he said he felt it was time for a change. He said he was well received in Barstow, “but being from the mountains of North Carolina, the Mojave Desert wasn’t where I wanted to stay.”
Carter and his wife Danielle had visited Bishop, and fallen in love with the area, so he applied for a job with BPD.
Carter was one of about a dozen candidates from all over California, varying in age and experience, who applied for a BPD job during an open recruitment held by Pesci and then-Lt. Tom Slawson. The candidates were put through a rigorous physical fitness test – a boot-camp style course – among other exams and in the end, Carter was offered the coveted position.
He began as a patrol officer that same year, and again, began climbing the ranks.
“They say timing is everything and that was true for me,” Carter said. Right after being hired, Carter was promoted to sergeant and in 2005 to lieutenant.
Following the departure of Sheehan, the council named Carter as interim chief and Carter also expressed a desire for the permanent position.
As Sheehan’s successor, Carter said he hopes to help maintain the incredibly low crime rate. Carter said he credits the low crime rate in Bishop to the good relationship between the BPD, the citizens and the city.
Carter said he would also like to revamp a community watchdog type of program, “because it does work to help prevent and reduce crime.”
He said chiefs before him have been successful with these community policing programs, and he plans to continue those efforts. And, with smaller budgets, he said he hopes to gain a large volunteer base. The BPD is constantly pursuing grant and other funding opportunities but Carter said he doesn’t want to have to rely on outside money for operations.
“We have many people in the community who will step up and lend a hand if given the chance and I’d like to explore those possibilities with things like Retired Senior Volunteer Program, additional Reserve Police Officers and such,” Carter said. “I’d also like to be able to run a Citizens Academy Program and I’ve already spoken with (Inyo County) Sheriff Bill Lutze and he is supportive.”
The excellent working relationships the BPD has with other law enforcement and departments in the county is also a valuable asset.
Carter is considered a valuable asset to the community, as the more than 30 friends and relatives in attendance at his swearing in can attest.
“I can’t think of a better place to be doing this job than right here in Bishop and I look forward to continuing being part of this great community,” Carter said.