LAPD veteran lands job as chief

Gareth W. Dodd
Ventura County Star
Sep 11, 2010

Chief Kathleen Sheehan

Chief Kathleen Sheehan

Port Hueneme has hired a 25-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department who blew the whistle on her boss and then honed her crime-fighting skills with the U.S. Department of Justice in Indonesia and Pakistan.

Kathleen Sheehan, 52, the police chief of Bishop, will be sworn in Sept. 20 at a City Council meeting. She will replace former Police Chief Fernando “Fernie” Estrella, who retired Aug. 31, although he contends he was forced out after a lengthy career.

“I think I’ve aged 10 years in the last couple months,” said Sheehan. “I really want this job. I lived in Camarillo and Oxnard and love this area. It will also make it easier to be with family and friends in Los Angeles.

“Port Hueneme’s department is barely larger than Bishop’s. There are 32 sworn officers in Bishop, compared to 36 in Port Hueneme. But it still has that small-town feel, and that’s where I want to be.

“In a small city, the police can play a direct role in getting at-risk youth moving in the right direction, away from gangs and crime by getting them to pursue vocational education, question negative peer influences, fight addiction and find jobs.”

Sheehan said there were times shortly after she left the LAPD for the Department of Justice that she wondered if she made the right decision. She said she missed working with her older brother, Joseph Terena, an LAPD training officer.

After leaving the LAPD, Sheehan spent two years in Indonesia and Pakistan as a training administrator to fight gangs and organized crime. She also taught police executives about community policing and investigation methods.

“Chief Sheehan has that rare combination of big-city sophistication and small-town sensitivity that can lead our police department forward while embracing a citizenry accustomed to having an accessible and involved police chief,” City Manager David Norman said in a prepared statement.

Sheehan, whose favorite mode of transportation is her Harley Davidson motorcycle, said the years of experience and training she’s received dealing with gangs and narcotics have helped her develop a plan to reduce both problems in Port Hueneme.

“I have a 10-point plan to fight gangs,” she said. “It’s a combination of crime analysis, case organization, the use of real intelligence and technology to take a broad approach, plus hard-core prosecution.

“It’s similar to what we used when I was with LAPD. It was very successful in unwinding the Vineland Boys.”

Sheehan, who will be paid $140,000 a year in base salary, also developed the nationally renowned West Point Leadership Program while with the LAPD. The program blends behavioral science learned at the U.S. Army Military Academy with police experience to create pragmatic problem-solving strategies.

“I feel privileged and proud to have shared the culture and everyday family life of people in Mexico, South America, Southeast Asia and the Middle East,” said Sheehan. “People all over the world want the same things from their police department: competence, character, cooperation and compassion.”