By Neil Farrell
Morro Bay will need to look for another police chief after Chief Gregory Allen announced that he would be leaving the City on Aug. 17.
Chief Allen was hired as the permanent police chief on May 31, 2017 coming to Morro Bay from the City of Greenfield in Monterey County, where he was that town’s police commander and had been its acting chief while the City looked for a permanent chief.
City Manager Scott Collins in a news release, said, “I greatly appreciate all Chief Allen has done for the Morro Bay community and the Police Department. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”
The reason for his departure was not given, though the Tribune reported that Collins said the City and Allen had reached a “mutual agreement of separation.”
The Bay News sent an email to Chief Allen, who was on vacation, seeking clarification on why he is leaving but did not receive a response before deadline.
Chief Allen served for 34-1/2 years with the vaunted Los Angeles Police Department, working various details — from undercover drug enforcement in Venice Beach, to homicide and vice — at various stations in the City. He rose to the rank of Captain, retiring in 2011. But he didn’t stay retired for very long.
After a couple of years, Chief Allen came out of retirement to take the job as police commander in Greenfield, a farming community of about 16,000, located in Monterey County.
He was serving as that town’s acting police chief while it searched for a permanent chief before taking the top job in Morro Bay. He came into the job seeking to improve the department’s communication with its residents and seeking to mentor the younger officers at MBPD.
In the news release announcing his departure, Chief Allen said, “I have enjoyed serving as the Chief of Police for this department and the community. Together we accomplished some great and honorable achievements, especially in the betterment of communication between members of the community. I will always appreciate the teamwork that I experienced between the Police Department and its community.”
His short tenure would seem to have been uneventful, with one possible exception. This past Feb. 6, Chief Allen had a run-in with a self-described “First Amendment Auditor” and Internet You Tube blogger, who the chief caught acting suspiciously and filming the comings and goings of police from behind the police station.
The contact led to a confrontation in front of the station house when the cameraman refused to produce identification when asked for it by the Chief and another officer.
With camera rolling, the man was taken to the ground, handcuffed and held in a police car while they checked his identity.
The man was eventually released after about an hour with no charges filed.
The incident was posted on You Tube. The City Manager then hired an independent investigator to look into the incident and Chief Allen was cleared of any wrongdoing.
At the time, the Chief said he wanted to make sure the man didn’t pose a threat to his officers or the public.
City Manager Collins appointed Police Cmdr. Jody Cox to serve as acting police chief, a role he was filling when Chief Allen was hired. The City will now begin a search for a permanent police chief.
Last time that happened, when former Chief Amy Christy left to become the police chief in Pacific Grove, the Interim Chief, Larry Todd, who came out of retirement himself to take the interim job, led the search.
Since 2005, when former Chief Joe Loven retired, Morro Bay has had two “Interim” chiefs — Mike Lewis and Todd, and four permanent ones —John DeRohan, Tim Olivas, Christey and Allen.
DeRohan retired and Olivas left Morro Bay to become the SLO County Undersheriff, a position he still holds. Also, MBPD Sgt. Rick Catlett and Cmdr. Cox have served time as acting chiefs.
Chief Allen was hired by former City Manager, David Buckingham and Collins will hire his replacement.
Normally, the job is advertised nationwide and a committee formed to go through applications to narrow down the choices to about five or six.
Candidates have to undergo background checks, several rounds of oral interviews and psychological testing too, before they are offered a job.
In the current City budget, the police chief’s salary range goes from $129,268 to $157,126, and the job of course comes with full benefits and retirement.