‘It’s about people:’ Randall Billingsley takes the helm of the Truckee Police Department
Truckee officially appoints new police chief
Randall Billingsley, the new chief of the Truckee Police Department, is looking for a certain brand of officer.
“We steal officers,” he said. “We induce officers to come to our agency because of the Truckee attractiveness and the outdoor living opportunity we provide.”
Combined with a supportive community, he said, the thorough recruitment process works.
“It’s honestly a breath of fresh air for the officers we have from districts with real crime, like Oakland or Stockton,” Billingsley said. “They have divisive, challenging issues that, frankly, we don’t have.”
Billingsley’s appointment, which formally occurred Jan. 22, comes six months after former Police Chief Robert Leftwich and former Town Manager Jeff Loux retired in July.
Leftwich and Loux stepped down from their respective posts following the fallout of a leaked internal email in June. The email compared the characters of two different black men killed in 2020 — one with a criminal record and one employed by the Department of Homeland Security.
Both men said they were retiring.
Billingsley took over the vacated position that same July, but was not officially appointed until this month, after the town of Truckee selected Jennifer Callaway as Loux’s replacement in October.
Billingsley said he knew the town would not make any final decisions until after the town manager was chosen.
He said he looks forward to upholding the department’s philosophy of community policing.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF POLICE FORCE
A public forum following the public dissemination of the former police chief’s email revealed Truckee police have an untarnished record — one Billingsley is proud of given the way institutional racism can manifest in other law enforcement agencies.
As police across the country have been accused in the shooting deaths of unarmed individuals, the summer forum revealed the Truckee police have never killed anyone in their care. When the American Civil Liberties Union requested to review complaints filed against the department, there were none to share. The forum also revealed how demographics of those involved in traffic stops reflected the demographic of the community at large.
Billingsley attributes the department’s uncommon record to the culture and training.
He said the deescalation course accredited by the Peace Officer Standards and Training requires psychological evaluation and helps authorities determine “the real crux” of the issue.
“Basically, our men and women are trained to evaluate the situation at hand,” Billingsley explained. “Is this person committing a crime or is this a mental health situation?”
Billingsley said his team is taught to assess the situation and slow it down.
Billingsley said Truckee police opt out of use of force every opportunity they can. When confronting an armed individual, the deescalation tactics have proved effective, he added.
Additionally, Billingsley said his team “loves” wearing the body cams required by the state because they offer reciprocal transparency from the public.
“It’s a personal back up,” Billingsley explained. “If they do the right thing, the department will support that.”
Billingsley said he reviews body cam footage after receiving complaints from the public on a regular basis. Each time, Billingsley discovered the officer was on the receiving end of misconduct or maltreatment.
Billingsley said he invites the callers to come in and explore why they might be feeling put out in a dialogue.
“Usually, they say, ‘thank you’ and hang up,” Billingsley said.
Billingsley first joined the Truckee Police Department in July 2019 as a captain, but said he has been working in the region for over the last decade.
“I always had a great respect for the department and how they police the community and how they are part of the community, really,” Billingsley said. “It was something I was excited to be a part of.”
Before joining Truckee police in a direct capacity, Billingsley served as chief district attorney investigator for Nevada County for nine years.
Nevada County’s Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh said he is grateful for time spent with Billingsley and still calls the former investigator when he needs advice.
“He is wise,” Walsh said. “If we have a big case that comes up, I still reach out to him.”
Walsh said he could not think of a better person to serve the Truckee community.
“He’s so respected and so good at what he does,” Walsh said. “That calm demeanor under pressure goes such a long way in law enforcement because we’re always dealing with emergencies.”
Town Council member and former mayor David Polivy expressed a similar optimism about the official appointment.
“Chief Randy Billingsley understands our unique issues and positive community policing strategy,” Polivy said.
Billingsley said the years of experience in — and out of — the Sierra Foothills helped shape his values and ethic in the workplace.
Billingsley said those years of experience in the Oakland police department in 1994 and then the San Mateo police department in 1996 helped him understand the different ways certain populations’ dignities are diminished in communities.
“I’ve seen disparities and inequities in income,” Billingsley explained.
Billingsley said police brutality is a serious issue, and but said he hopes to work within and outside of his department to address the institutionalized marginalization of certain populations.
“I don’t know how to fix it, but I will be part of the solution,” Billingsley said. “I’m going to support real change.”
Billingsley said change and progress is possible in the region, in part because of the small size of the community.
“We can’t save the whole world, but we can save them one at a time,” Billingsley said, referring again to his department’s personalized approach to crime stopping.
Billingsley said mental health and homelessness are areas he is particularly sensitive to.
A recent conversation with Paul Bancroft, of the Sierra Community House, revealed crises calls are up 1,400%.
As a community-supported authority, Billingsley said it is hard not to acknowledge both the mental and physical fallout of COVID-19.
Billingsley said the police organized a contingent of volunteers to connect seniors with limited technological skills, helping them access the information they need about COVID-19. Billingsley said the outreach effort came as a result of collaborating with Harry Weis at the Tahoe Forest Health System.
Billingsley echoed a statement Leftwich made in 2020, mentioning that his department works with individuals involved in domestic disputes to help resolve the issue.
Similarly, Billingsley is eager to collaborate with the Sierra Community House to address the growing homeless crisis in the area.
“Community policing is not about police,” Billingsley said. “It’s about people, it’s about treating each other with dignity and respect, understanding different people’s values, respecting them and coming together with compassion for each other. The Truckee Police Department understands that.”
Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun and The Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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