Steven Stanfield was sworn-in as Merced’s new police chief during a ceremony on Monday at City Hall with local leaders, law enforcement officers, family members and friends.
After taking the reins from Interim Chief Craig Gundlach, Stanfield made a pledge to outgoing City Manager Stephanie Dietz — who hired the new chief after an extensive, year-long recruitment search — as well as to new City Manager Scott McBride.
“I commit to you that I will lead the Police Department with honesty and integrity, and will always work hard to lead from the front,” Stanfield said. “I will put the safety of our citizens and staff as my No. 1 priority and help to develop future leaders within our organization. I will find new and innovative ways to work with other city departments, remembering again that ‘We are better together.’ I commit to you that I will do everything I can to make Merced a safe place to live, work and play, and will always give you my very best even when it’s hard.”
The new chief also turned to his new staff of officers and employees and made a promise.
“Starting today, we are family, and as a family we will all be in this together,” he said. “I commit to you all that I will listen to you, and work to make sure you feel valued as employees. I will ensure you have a voice in the direction of our department, and will help move our agency forward. We are no longer going to spend time looking in the rearview mirror, but we are going to focus on our future. Your history and traditions are important but so is change. Today marks a day of change for our agency and our city, a day where we will begin to write our future vision and shape our agency for years to come.”
Stanfield, a 27-year law enforcement veteran and former lieutenant at the Modesto Police Department, fills a leadership gap that was left when Chief Tom Cavallero retired at the end of last year. Stanfield is a valley native and a third-generation first responder — the grandson of a fire chief and the son of a firefighter.
“Having someone of Chief Stanfield’s pedigree is a huge benefit for the community,” Merced Mayor Matthew Serratto told the Times. “I think he is someone who can bring stability and growth to our Police Department, and someone who can initiate policies to become more proactive, and help us approach public safety issues better.”
Mayor Serratto said Chief Stanfield’s direction of the department is of critical importance to the city. “Where is this department going to go? How are they going to initiate programs that improve public safety? How are they going to engage the community?” are all important questions that need to be addressed, according to the mayor.
The mayor also pointed out that Chief Stanfield and his MPD team will continue to face Merced’s most pressing issues, including the plight of the homeless and transients living on the streets, gang violence, business theft, vandalism and traffic complaints such as speeding, particularly in residential areas and near schools. On top of those problems, Stanfield joins other law enforcement department heads who are tasked with the struggle of recruiting and cultivating good officers who will want to remain among the local ranks.