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UC Names Mitch Celaya Police Chief

By Rio Bauce, Special to the Planet By Rio Bauce, Special to the Planet By Rio Bauce, Special to the Planet
Thursday July 23, 2009 - 09:37:00 AM

UC Berkeley officials announced Tuesday that Assistant Police Chief Mitch Celaya will be promoted to chief Aug. 1. 

Celaya, 48, had been one of two final candidates for the position, along with Oakland Deputy Police Chief David Kozicki.  

“Managing public safety at a campus like UC Berkeley has unique challenges,” UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor for Administration Nathan Brostrom said. “By size and complexity alone, our campus is a small city, with all the attendant public safety issues common to both urban and park-like settings. I believe that Mitch Celaya, with his extensive campus experience, his collaborative style and his commitment to the highest standards in police work, is uniquely qualified to lead the department forward.” 

In February, the university began a national search for a replacement for outgoing police chief Victoria Harrison. After the top two candidates met with senior campus leaders, the executive leadership of Brostrom's office, and held a town-hall meeting with the community, Brostrom, in consultation with UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgenau, announced that Celaya had been selected as the new top cop at the university. 

In June, senior campus officials announced a temporary suspension of the police search because they were looking into plans to merge the UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco Police departments under one chief. However, Janet Gilmore, UC Berkeley spokeswoman, announced Tuesday that the plans had been dropped. 

“Both the UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco police departments decided not to pursue it since it did not result in significant savings,” said Gilmore. 

Celaya joined the UC Police Department in 1982. Over the years, he moved up in rank from officer to lieutenant to captain. Since 2006, he has served in the capacity of assistant police chief and press information officer. In 1992 he received a UC’s Meritorious Service Award for his response to the attempted assassination of then Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien. 

Celaya will receive $165,000 a year. Former police chief Victoria Harrison, first hired in 1985, received about $192,000 a year, according to past compensation reports from the university. 

“Besides loving my job, the campus culture, and the community,” said Celaya in a June interview with the Daily Planet, “I am in tune to the culture and what people expect from the department. I would like to enhance the interactions with the student community. Some students feel that they have not developed relationships with us and we want to change that, working with the Associated Students of UC Berkeley and setting up mentor groups.” 

Celaya says that robbery and street crimes will be his top priority. 

“My biggest priority will be the reduction of violent street crime in and around campus,” said Celaya. “With budget restraints, we will do our best as a department. We will continue to put emphasis on building rapport with students and faculty and staff.”