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Departing chief made visibility a top priority

November 15, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Police Department spokesman Sgt. Jim Neujahr said Calexico Police Chief Tommy Tunson will be missed in the community after his final day in Calexico on Nov. 27.

Tunson announced Tuesday that he had accepted the deputy chief position with the Southgate Police Department in the Los Angeles area.

"If there's one thing that you can say about the chief it is that he was out there in the community," Neujahr said.

"Other chiefs in the past, they didn't get into the community like he did. It can never be said that he was hard to find," he added.


Throughout his two-and-a-half years with the Calexico department, Tunson made it a priority to attend community events and introduce himself to the citizens he was pledged to protect and serve.

The executive director of the Calexico Chamber of Commerce, Hildy Carrillo-Rivera said, "What I like about the chief is that he came to you and introduced himself. You didn't have to search him out.

"He made sure he introduced himself to the kids at various schools throughout the city and the business owners. He made it a point to introduce himself to everyone so that they would know who the chief was."

After mulling some of the other qualities of Tunson, Carrillo-Rivera said, "I also liked the fact that he was black and tall and bald because everyone knew that was our chief.

"He didn't blend into the Imperial Valley look."

In addition to his civic activities, Tunson would often walk through the downtown area unannounced to check in with merchants.

He enforced the same rules on his officers as he adhered to himself, Neujahr said.

Often, if he saw officers hanging around the station he would tell them to get back on the streets patrolling the community.

Neujahr said Tunson will be remembered countywide for his efforts securing state funding for the Street Interdiction Team.

This anti-drug trafficking team made up of officers from around the county has had an immediate impact in the Imperial Valley drug war after only a few months of operation.

Previously, state funds earmarked for drug-trafficking programs had been funneled into the county Sherriff's Office, Neujahr said.

Another of Tunson's positive legacies will be his work with the youth of the community, according to Calexico High School Assistant Principal John Moreno.

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, a young boy personally lobbied the chief to stay in Calexico.

Last week Tunson organized a Veterans Day memorial at Calexico High School and garnered raucous applause from the students as he rallied the football team.

After Tunson leaves for Southgate, Cmdr. Mario Sanchez could take over the day-to-day operations of the department but City Manger Richard Inman could bring in someone from the outside as acting chief until a permanent replacement is hired, Neujahr said.

Martha Gomez, administrative assistant for the department, expects the transition to be a smooth one and hasn't fielded questions from concerned police officers.

Neujahr doesn't think Tunson's departure will affect the ability of the department to serve the public.

"We all have a mission and the chief leaving doesn't stop that mission. I think everyone is confident with the leadership of Cmdr. Sanchez," he said.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached 337-3419 or

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