New chief's managerial approach suits Tangedal just fine

March 27, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — A white dry-erase board on the north wall of Lt. Jill Tangedal's office bears the names of this city's police officers and sergeants.

Tangedal recently updated the board to include the names of Jesus Sandoval of Calexico and Julio Diaz of El Centro. The new officers bring the Calexico Police Department within five officers of full staffing.

After they were sworn in Monday morning, Tangedal said the new officers were added to one of the department's teams.

On the board in Tangedal's office, each sergeant's name is written above a team of three, four or five officers, depending on the shift the team covers. The teams are denoted by different colors.


After a 12-week training period with a field training officer, the two new officers will be shadowed by another officer during the final two weeks of their training. After the training days are completed the officers will be added to one of the teams as full-fledged members.

Once they are it will be Tangedal's job to make sure whichever investigations or patrol team they are assigned to works efficiently for the Calexico residents, solving crimes and nabbing bad guys.

She said Monday she allows the sergeants in charge of each team to bear responsibility for the actions of the officers under their command but ultimately she shoulders the brunt of the responsibility, along with Lt. Jim Neujahr and Chief Mario Sanchez.

That's the way the new chief set up the department. Sanchez was hired as chief recently after former chief Tommy Tunson left to join the South Gate Police Department.

In the resulting reorganization of the Calexico Police Department, Sanchez promoted Tangedal and Neujahr to lieutenants to work as a team helping manage the department. Tangedal is in charge of operations and Neujahr is in charge of administration.

Sanchez scrapped the commander rank he had held for many years in favor of a managerial approach utilizing Tangedal and Neujahr.

The way Tangedal describes it, "We're all part of it: lieutenant, chief, sergeant. All of the supervisors teach our officers the right thing — how to be professional."

The 15-year department veteran believes in the team concept and has tried to employ it during her first month as a lieutenant.

All the while, the North Dakota native knows some of the city's officers groan when they hear about some new "concept" or whatnot. Tangedal said pockets of bitterness in the department could be left over from previous administrations.

She said, "There were problems. You can't fix it (the department) overnight. It's going to take time."

To do that she vowed to put her money where her mouth is.

"If I sit here and say these things, I have to walk the walk," she said.

Asked about the state of the department as of this week, Tangedal said she looks at the names on her board and she sees a female officer and "a good bunch of guys."

She acknowledges that some community residents have complained about the aggressiveness of Calexico's police force.

Tangedal said, "There is no black and white. There is that gray area. While a police officer's job is providing a service to a community and protecting lives … " she paused. "Everyone likes the Fire Department. We do good things, too, but we also have to enforce the laws."

She said enforcing those laws would be easier with more officers on the streets. Pointing at her dry-erase board, she noted which teams are short of officers.

Almost every one of the teams contains an officer in training as the department tries to beef up. Just a few months ago the department was short 13 officers.

As for how the department could attract and retain more officers, she said, "Pay us more."

Recently, the police officers' union negotiated a new compensation package with the City Council. While some in the department are happy with the raise, there are others, including Tangedal, who think officers still deserve a little more than some of the other city employees because of the inherent danger of their job.

"You look at the tragedy of Sept. 11 … how can you put a price tag on what we do?" she asked.

In upcoming budget negotiations, the City Council will have to consider that.

Right now, even with the new officers, "The teams are tight. It's you and these guys for 12 hours. You can't call in sick. Who are you going to get to cover for you?" she said.

Often a Calexico officer will turn down overtime just to keep his days off. Tangedal noted that when police officers turn down overtime, that means they are seriously overworked.

Soon she hopes to see the City Council vote for a pay boost that will allow her to write in more names on her board.

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

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles