Tulare’s new police chief was sworn in and began serving in his permanent position on November 14, after having worked as interim chief for nearly six months.
Naming Wes Hensley to the permanent position was an easy decision, said City Manager Don Dorman.
“His longevity with the department and as a captain; he was head and shoulders the choice,” Dorman said.
Hensley has served Tulare PD since 1991, following a stint in the Visalia Police reserves and working in the Tulare County Sheriff Department.
While Dorman said he felt there were other qualified candidates, none of them have the longevity of Hensley.
Dorman chose not to seek applicants for the position from outside. Tulare has a history of promoting from within and the decision to do so again was Dorman’s. As city manager, Dorman is responsible for filling all department heads.
“It was a choice of a known-quantity versus someone new, and unknown,” he said.
Hensley said he is humbled by his appointment.
“I never honesty thought this was in my career path,” said Hensley, who has about five years until he is eligible for retirement.
“This comes at very good time for me personally and professionally,” he said.
The appointment became necessary following the resignation of former chief Jerry Breckinridge, who left following turmoil about his extended temporary leave of absence. Breckinridge said he resigned for personal reasons. His resignation became official on November 13.
While Hensley does not see making any immediate drastic changes to the department, he does feel there are some things that could be done to make the department more efficient, he said. Some of those things including the processing and handling of evidence, as well as enlarging limited storage space.
As a captain for many years, Hensley has played a lot of roles in department policy. One thing he would like to expand upon is community outreach, he said.
“I would like to see us have more of a presence in community functions,” he said, “and work on creating a dialogue.
“I want to create an environment they (the public) are comfortable coming in, whether it is to come in and file a complaint, or ask a question.”
The department is now “very actively” looking into the purchase and use of body cameras, and will be testing cameras in January, Hensley said.
“Cameras are a benefit to all of us,” he said.
He added that he does not think it will be long until body cameras become a federal mandate.
Hensley is looking for cameras to outfit his 43 uniformed patrol officers, he said. His largest concern is that of storage and date recall.
The Tulare Police Department currently has 75 sworn policing positions. With Hensley’s promotion, he will be looking to promote someone else to captain and backfill down the line to include the hire of a new patrol officer, he said. He plans to make these promotions soon.
Hensley is the father of four children and six grandchildren, most of whom live up and down the Valley. He enjoys competitive archery and heads up an archery program in the Tulare Police Activities League, which he plans on continuing. His students range in age from eight to 18.
“I’ve always had an interest in kids and in helping out,” he said.
As for his new position as chief, “He will perpetrate a lot of the improvements the department has been working on,” Dorman said. “He is very innovative and creative in how things are done to get the most out of the department.”
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I would suggest that a good start in Chief Hensley’s quest for community outreach would be to make the community more welcomed at the Police Station itself. When one enters Tulare’s police station you are not met by a human being. It is a small dark closed off room and one must speak through a wall phone to an unseen person on the other side of the closed off wall. This furthers the belief that the police is afraid for their own safety in the community….it is safe enough for we the people but not safe enough for the police thus promoting an “us against them” mentality to thrive among the ranks. If you want to have a greater presence in the community then a good place to start would be at the very hub of interaction between the police dept. and citizens (like it used to be years ago). Used to be that if there was a problem then one would go to the police station to seek help but when you can’t even physically see a police officer in that building why would one ever think about turning to them for assistance. Need to speak to a policeman then place a phone call and wait hours for one to actually show up at your home. That place now says we need to protect ourselves against the community because they are all out to get us. How sad!