A former Beaverton police chief who is well-respected in the law enforcement community will lead the Astoria Police Department until a permanent chief is hired.
Geoff Spalding, who retired as chief of the Beaverton Police Department in 2016 and previously spent 31 years with the Fullerton Police Department in California, joins the Astoria Police as interim chief on Aug. 28.
City Manager Brett Estes announced Saturday that Spalding will temporarily replace former chief Brad Johnston, who retired suddenly this month after 25 years with the department. Deputy Chief Eric Halverson took over Johnston’s duties and will continue in this role until Spalding arrives.
Though Halverson has not worked with Spalding before, he said he has attended classes Spalding facilitated and the retired chief’s demeanor, personality and competence impressed him.
“I think it’s going to be a positive thing,” Halverson said. He added, “Of course, it’s the unknown of, ‘Here’s my new boss.’ But he’s already reached out to me. He’s very interested in getting to know all our people. He intends to spend one-on-one time with all of our employees.”
Halverson was not interested in becoming the city’s interim chief. There is still much he feels he needs to learn, he said, and he thinks Spalding will be a good mentor.
“We’re in a place right now where we need somebody with the level of experience that Chief Spalding has.”
City Councilor Bruce Jones, a former commander of U.S. Coast Guard Sector Columbia River, said Spalding has a great reputation and is highly respected.
“I think Mr. Estes is just doing a great job handling this situation,” Jones said.
The city tapped the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police interim leadership assistance program to help find Spalding. Known as the linebacker program, it helps cities fill short-term vacancies with seasoned leaders.
Spalding is not expected to apply for the police chief’s position.
The city plans to cast a wide net to recruit a new chief. Estes also intends to look closely at the job description and recruitment materials to see if there are “specific functions, specific qualities, specific characteristics that we really need to find the appropriate person.” It is a process he expects will take time, possibly up to six months or longer.
“I believe Geoff will be a great fit for the department and in our community,” Estes said in a statement. “His 39 years of law enforcement experience and relationship-building skills will be invaluable during this time of transition for the Astoria Police Department.”
Spalding will serve as interim chief until the city finds a new chief. He will receive a monthly salary of $8,639 — or $103,668 annually. He will also receive a housing stipend. Johnston was paid a base salary of around $103,000.
In addition to overseeing regular police matters, Spalding will also take the first steps to address concerns highlighted in an independent assessment of the Astoria Police Department that Estes had requested earlier this year. The assessment uncovered long-held frustrations, low morale and organizational concerns at the under-staffed department during Johnston’s tenure as chief.
Estes hopes whoever he hires as the next police chief will develop a strategic plan to address these issues. However, Estes said Spalding can begin to undertake pieces of that process, such as working with staff to determine what qualities they desire in a new chief.
“This is not something that’s going to go on the back burner until we have a new chief in place,” Estes said.
Spalding started his law enforcement career in 1976 and worked his way up through the ranks. He has managed the field training officer program, was a patrol watch commander, detective division commander and uniform division commander responsible for patrol and traffic personnel as well as the North County SWAT team. He created the first bilingual outreach coordinator position for the Beaverton Police Department while chief there.
Spalding is also past president of the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police and is a member of the Oregon Task Force on School Safety.
“I’m looking forward to working with the men and women of the Astoria Police Department, an agency that is well-respected in the community,” Spalding said in a statement.
He and his wife, Diane, say they have always enjoyed Astoria, and Spalding said they are excited to spend time in the community.