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New El Centro Interim Police Chief appointed

Chief Robert Sawyer was just 16 years when he started with the El Centro Police Department as a volunteer and is now stepping in as acting Police Chief - News 11's Vanessa Gongora reports

EL CENTRO, Calif. (KYMA, KECY) - The City of El Centro announced Deputy Chief of Police Robert Sawyer has been appointed Interim Police Chief effective Friday July 29 2022.

This comes after El Centro Police Chief Brian Johnson announced his retirement effective July 29, 2022, after 4 years of service to the city.

Chief Sawyer is a native of El Centro and first got involved with the El Centro Police Department as a volunteer at just 16 years old, then at 18 he became a volunteer reserve police officer.

After waiting about six years, Sawyer was hired in 1998 as a full time police officer.

"So being able to serve majority of my police career here in El Centro has been a dream come true," says Chief Sawyer. "Lifelong dream come true. I've been with the police department here most of my life now and to be able to see the growth of our people, the growth of our community, the new businesses coming to town and the partnerships that we have built over time with the community, the ones that we plan on continuing to build, again, has been a dream come true."

Sawyer says he wants to make sure the community knows their calling is to be there in somebody's darkest hour and provide exceptional service.

"It's really important for the public to understand we can't do our job without them," says Sawyer "They're our eyes and ears."

According to Sawyer, there are struggles and challenges officers face because policing isn't as popular as it used to be in America.

He says there's a stigma going around of bad police being out there and there's no doubt that there are bad officers out there in law enforcement agencies across this nation.

"I can tell you nobody more than police departments and police officers want to get those bad apples out of the group because it makes us all look bad," says Sawyer. "This is truly a noble profession, we take it because we want to help people."

Chief Sawyer says most crimes are solved because people have faith in the police department to come forward and participate in interviews.

"We have to continue to build that bridge and be that partner for the community," Chief Sawyer says.

Sawyer says Chief Johnson did a great job implementing leadership and will continue to teach the way he did.

"Everyone in the department is a leader regardless of your rank," Sawyer says. "We don't lead from the top down. We lead from the bottom up."

Sergeant James Thompson explained how Chief Johnson helped develop relationships between the community, city employees and the department.

"I believe Chief Sawyer will continue that portion of his legacy," Sgt. Thompson says.

El Centro is where Chief Sawyer started his career and says this is where he will end it, hopefully as the permanent police chief.

"If I'm lucky enough to be selected I will serve with pride and if I'm not, i'll do everything I can to support the incoming police chief and continue the great level of service that we've provided for many years," says Chief Sawyer.

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Vanessa Gongora

Vanessa Gongora joined the KYMA News 11 team in 2021.

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