Robert A. Jonsen, who currently serves as the Menlo Park Chief of Police, has been selected by City Manager James Keene as the next Chief of Police for the City of Palo Alto. Following Council confirmation on Dec. 11 and the finalization of public safety background requirements, Jonsen is expected to join the City on Jan. 9. Jonsen has served as Menlo Park’s Chief of Police since 2013 and has more than 30 years of law enforcement and public safety experience.
“Bob is well regarded for his ability to connect with the community, as well as for his innovative approaches to community policing, leadership and mentoring of police and professional staff,” said Keene. “His deep experience in a nearby city and increasingly senior and complex assignments in all aspects of law enforcement bring extraordinary value to the position of police chief. We look forward to having him join Palo Alto to lead our stellar Police Department.”
The selection of the new Palo Alto Police Chief was conducted through a national search that generated substantial interest and a significant number of applicants. There were multiple interview panels that included members of the community, peer former chiefs of police and others within the criminal justice system, senior attorneys, as well as executive staff.
During his tenure as police chief with Menlo Park, Jonsen has been responsible for 70 sworn and civilian personnel staff and an annual budget of approximately $16 million. Among his key accomplishments has been a reduction in violent crime by 47 percent, establishment of a Citizen Advisory Committee, the implementation of body cameras, as well as the establishment of a public/private partnership with Facebook.
Jonsen is also a leader in the field of mindfulness training for law enforcement, and the development of compassion cultivation training for public safety and the community.
“I am grateful and excited about being selected as the next Chief of Police for the City of Palo Alto,” said Jonsen. “I consider myself privileged to become part of a team that has always worked hard to enhance how they serve this community. My career has afforded me opportunities to serve communities throughout southern California and more recently Menlo Park. I look forward to working with the entire Palo Alto community for many years to come and will do my best to earn their trust and to provide leadership to a department full of amazing people who truly care about and want to serve this city with professionalism, integrity, and respect.”
Prior to coming to Menlo Park, Jonsen served in increasingly senior positions within law enforcement in Southern California. From 2011 to 2013, Jonsen was Captain/Chief of Police for the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station where he was responsible for police operations for a geographical area covering 600 miles with 300 sworn personnel. During his tenure in this position, the overall crime rate dropped by 5.3 percent including a reduction in homicides by 23 percent. From 2008 to 2011, Jonsen served as coordinator of the Antelope Valley Crime Fighting Initiative (AVCFI) focused on reducing violent crimes over a 1,370 square mile area.
From 2005 to 2008, Jonsen was a Lieutenant at the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station with oversight of 264 station personnel and a $20 million budget. He also served as Watch Commander for the station focused on gang violence reduction; as a Lieutenant at the North County Correctional Facility (2004-2005) and as an Operation’s Sergeant in the Administrative Services Division. Jonsen also spent two years as the Assistant Director for the Regional Community Policing Institute, a six-county federally-funded community policing training institute where he developed domestic violence training programs, ethics and integrity, as well as first responder training.
During the first part of his career, Jonsen worked in the Custody Division (1986 to 1988); as a field training officer, patrol deputy and member of the gang enforcement team at the Lennox Station (1988-1994); as a department instructor in field operations training/force training unit (1994 to 2000), and as a Patrol Sergeant for the Temple Station (2000-2001).
A recipient of numerous service and public safety awards, Jonsen was recently recognized with the 2016 Golden Acorn Award for Outstanding Public Service, the 2016 IACP/Cisco Award for Community Policing, and has been a past winner of the Helen Putnam Award for Excellence in Public Safety (2015) and the James Q. Wilson Award for Excellence in Community Policing (2010), among others.
A graduate in Occupational Studies at California State University, Long Beach, Jonsen also holds an M.A. in organizational leadership from Woodbury University.
His annual salary will be set at $260,000 with a housing rental stipend of $3,000 a month for 18 months to allow Jonsen to maximize the time on the job and to fully immerse himself in the Palo Alto community as he builds relationships that are key as he assumes this new position.