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Police Chief to Leave Novato for Vallejo Job

Joseph Kreins says he'll remain living in Novato and wrap up his career looking for temporary gigs like the one Vallejo has.

Vallejo's new interim chief of police? Joseph Kreins.

Chief of the since 2004, Kreins has set July 13 as his last day in his Machin Avenue office, it was announced Wednesday. His first day in Vallejo will be July 16.

Captain Jim Berg, a 27-year veteran of Novato PD, will take over as interim chief, Captain Dave Jeffries said.

"It's the weirdest feeling in the world filling out retirement papers," Kreins said. "There's a finality to it. It's just weird."

Kreins, 55, will go to work for Dan Keen, the former city manager of Novato who serves the same role in Vallejo, a city with a lush history of financial problems and crime.

Kreins said he heard about the opening a few weeks ago when Robert Nichelini, 69, retired after 17 years. Nichelini's last day is July 1.

Kreins said he talked things over with Novato City Manager Michael Frank recently and expressed interest in serving in the interim role in Vallejo. He said the idea of temporary stints close to his Novato home — where he lives with his wife, Colleen — sounds like a good way to wind down his career, which is at 33-plus years and counting.

"I will continue to look for opportunities wherever they may be, but we will continue to live in Novato," he said. "I certainly have tremendous experience and expertise that I think could help departments in transition. But I'm not looking for anything long-term or permanent again."

Keen told the Vallejo Times Herald that details of Kreins' interim contract, expected to last six months or less, had not yet been finalized. Kreins, however, will not be compensated more than Nichelini was, Keen said. Retirees are limited to 960 hours of work per fiscal year by the state pension system.

Novato has about 60 sworn officers; Vallejo has more than 90. However, at one time prior to its well-publicized bankruptcy, Vallejo had 140 officers, Kreins said. Five new officers are expected to be added to the force now that voters have passed a 1 percent temporary sales tax.

Keen told Kreins that the interim goals would be to keep the organization moving forward, evaluate strengths and weaknesses and make suggestions.

"I'll be there to transition over the next several months and hopefully they'll get another excellent police chief hired," Kreins said. "They have gone through bankruptcy and now they're coming out the other end of it."

Kreins came to Novato in 2004 after serving as chief of police in Sausalito for 3 1/2 years — a position his father had held for about the same duration during a long law enforcement career. The younger Kreins previously worked in Concord for 16 years after starting his career with a five-year stint in Sausalito.

"Joe Kreins is leaving the city at the top of his game and leaving the Novato Police Department as one of the preeminent police departments in the county and in the state," City Manager Michael Frank said. "He's been a leader in our organization and in the community."

In Novato, Kreins was in command during a rocky fiscal climate that resulted budget cuts and the loss of nearly 10 sworn officers.

"One of the most significant accomplishments in the 12 years I've been a chief is that every time I've worked on a budget it's been turned in not only balanced but it came in under budget and still met the goals and objectives set forth," Kreins said. "I've been cutting budgets every year I've been a chief and seen some tremendous adversity."

Despite an intense focus on fighting crime as Novato residents debated the benefits and drawbacks of multifamily housing complexes, Kreins has pointed to statistics that prove crime is down — to the chagrin of some skeptics. Earlier in June, Kreins announced the creation of to focus partially on relationships with property managers at apartment complexes and other multifamily housing units with an eye on curbing street crimes.

"Crime is down, contrary to what some people believe in our community," he said.

Frank commended Kreins for the department's track record.

"Even during these extremely difficult financial times, Joe has been upbeat and been successful getting numerous grants and creating awarding winning programs," Frank said. "He has increased the safety in our community such that it is safer today than it was 20 years ago."

The Novato police force will make temporary adjustments and start the hunt for Kreins' full-time replacement. As Berg takes over, Jeffries will switch to Berg's position as operations division commander and Sgt. Jennifer Welch will become an acting lieutenant to handle Jeffries' duties as services division commander.

Harry June 29, 2012 at 12:57 AM
Chief kreins will be missed he came to Novato at a very pivotal period. The good news is Captain Berg will make an excellent interim Chief and should be given a priority to keep it on a permanent basis if he wants it.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr June 29, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Over the years, I have suggested where Mr. Kreins should go. Vallejo is close enough to my suggestion. But the same city council will chose the same type of lap dog replacement. We need law enforcement in Novato.
Brent Ainsworth June 29, 2012 at 06:51 PM
I've heard many people say that, but haven't seen many write it on a Patch comment. Thanks for the contribution, Jack.
Harry V Lehmann July 11, 2012 at 12:57 AM
There is a generally prevailing problem of entrenched overpaid public officials, particularly in quasi-governmental entities like ABAG (actually a private "nonprofit" corporation) and the lavishly over-staffed and incredibly under-productive MTC. I think that ABAG should be abolished. But all of us, me too, need to be careful about assuming that every single public servant has sought excess or gotten it. I don't agree with every single statistical evaluation that Chief Kreins has ever stated. But I know this department well, from several perspectives including the closest of friendship with one of our former Chiefs, the provision of professional legal work for several senior officers in the past, observation of police conduct in the past and currently, and reports to me in my work as a lawyer, as well as friendships in law enforcement, and repeated observation of Joseph Kreins in presentations, such as to the housing Working Group. This department was in a state of low morale when Kreins took over, and he has provided Novato with an extremely high level of consistent professionalism. Police work requires encounter with a lot of negativity, and seeing people at their worst as well as sometimes their best. It requires professionalism and compassion. I've lived here for six decades, and practiced law for 35 years. Joe Kreins has performed as well as the very best we have had. We should not judge all apples by the way we may see the barrel. Kreins will be sorely missed.
BERT LEE September 06, 2012 at 07:41 AM
What some of you must have missed is that the job at Vallejo is an interim position while Vallejo searches for a new chief. PERS will still collect retirement money based on the interim chief'a salary. The chief gets no additional benefit from PERS. The money goes into the pool. The chief can only work 960 hours per year in the PERS. The work must be in a temporary position.

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