Seaside Police Lt. Dave Ham will become the city’s new police chief when Chief Bob Gross retires on Oct. 31.
City Manager Mark Winstanley, who selected Ham to serve as the new police chief, said in a news release that Ham has “worked hard to be promoted through the ranks of the Seaside Police Department.” He commended Ham for his “dedication, ability and achievements.”
After serving with the Seaside Police Department for more than 18 years, moving into the role of Seaside Police Chief may be a natural fit for Ham. He started as a patrol officer with the Seaside Police Department in 1995. Before that, he worked part-time as a reserve officer at Independence Police Department. He also served in the U.S. Navy for four years and worked for Armored Transport as a courier.
Ham worked as a narcotics detective on the county’s drug task force from 2000-01. He was promoted to sergeant of the Seaside Police Department in 2001 and lieutenant in 2003 under former Police Chief Ken Almberg.
Ham served as acting chief for eight months after Almberg left and before Gross joined the department in 2005.
“I’m excited about the position,” Ham said.
Over the years, Gross has trained and mentored Ham, “sort of setting the table” for his impending retirement, Ham said.
“My long-term goal was to leave the department in the hands of someone here locally as opposed to having someone come in from the outside,” Gross said. “Dave’s fulfilled that role.”
Ham said it was known he would be interested in moving into the position of chief when the time came. Because of that, the department’s personnel have had the chance to prepare mentally for the transition.
Historically within the department, when a position opens, it often is first offered to internal candidates, Ham said.
He anticipates his current position as lieutenant also will be opened to those already working within the department, although finding Ham’s replacement has not yet been discussed at length, he said.
Ham feels his extensive experience and tenure with the department has given him comprehensive knowledge involving its operations and personnel, which will help him as the chief.
“I’m excited for him because I think he’s really worked hard to bring himself to this stage in his career,” Gross said. “... He’s been involved in a lot of the programs and organizations we have been involved in as a department, so I think he’ll be able to kind of hit the ground running because he’s not new to the area.”
Along with being more involved with policymaking, the biggest change in his new position, Ham said, will be the number of community meetings and events he’ll be expected to attend, because the chief is supposed to be the liaison between the community and the department.
It’s a slightly different role than the one he’s used to fulfilling as lieutenant, but Ham said he’s “ready for the challenge.”
Ham said he has considerable experience with community-based policing, and he has been involved with Seaside’s National Night Out, the Child Safety Fair and the local backpack food program. He also is the president of the Kiwanis Club of Seaside, which he joined six years ago. Ham has worked hard on developing his leadership skills within the department, as well, Gross said.
“I think he’s more than ready to assume the duties of police chief of Seaside,” he added.
Ham does not anticipate making major changes to the department’s relationships within the city. He does have a few ideas about how the department will run under his leadership.
“I think we’re running smoothly right now, but there’s always room for improvement,” he said.
He did not comment further because he has no concrete plan for changes but hopes to use the transition as an opportunity to review the department if necessary.
Ham’s law enforcement philosophy is centered on customer service and adhering to the old police motto “to protect and serve.”
“Customer service is really big in our line of work,” he said. For him, “customer service” means the department’s timeliness; responsiveness to calls, attentiveness; and officers who are professional, knowledgeable and educated.
“For our town, I think we have to be very available to receive citizens and their concerns,” he said.
Traditionally, the community has enjoyed easy access to the police department and a sort of “open door” policy, Ham said. He would like to maintain that “availability, the openness and, really, a fairness when you’re looking at how people are being treated.”
Ham lives in Clatsop County with his wife, Cheryl. He has two children, Joshua, 20, and Derek, 15. When he is not working, Ham enjoys traveling, sports and outdoor recreational activities. He is a member of the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police and the FBI National Academy Association and serves on the board for Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare.