PLEASANT HILL, CA (April 20, 2023) — Scott Vermillion potentially could have had his pick of police chief positions, but his heart kept him here.
“I just did not want to become ‘a’ police chief, but the police chief of Pleasant Hill,” he said, showing his love of the community.
A nearly 23-year veteran of the department that began as a patrol officer in October 2000, Vermillion shed the interim title in early March and was officially promoted to the top position.
“I really believe in service over self,” said Vermillion. “If I wasn’t blessed to be its police chief, I would have stayed on with the Pleasant Hill Police Department as a captain to support the next chief and be pleased to be able to be a service to the community.”
He believes his time on the streets and the knowledge he gained will be his most enduring assets as he establishes goals and seeks to make improvements.
“In the world of law enforcement, Pleasant Hill is a great place to work as a police officer. It has a supportive community that has its values in the right and appropriate places,” said Vermillion.
The new chief says the police department should reflect and resemble the community it polices – and that includes the values of the community.
“It’s an inclusive community. We are all in this together,” he said. “Diversity should be clearly embraced because it is what makes us strong.”
Ahead of his appointment, Vermillion attended training at FBI headquarters in Quantico, Va. He saw it as an invaluable experience, including networking with law enforcement executives from around the country as well as around the world, representing numerous countries and every continent.
Vermillion spoke of rooming with a law enforcement executive from Latvia who was born in the former USSR before it eventually dissolved and broke into individual nation states. As a neighbor to Russia, his Latvian colleague spoke of issues that were a far cry from challenges Pleasant Hill presents. Nonetheless, they were eye opening for Vermillion and made him appreciative of his opportunity.
Population-wise, Pleasant Hill has only grown by about 2,000 residents in the past 20 years. But there have been differences over time, and Vermillion knows his staff must be responsive to the changes.
The department has evolved to have greater social media presence but still has not lost sight of the tried and true, boots on the ground visibility like visiting the elementary schools. A heightened awareness of mental health concerns in the community has also spurred the formation of a crisis intervention team that responds to anyone having a mental health crisis.
More eyes to keep city safe
The department is researching a real-time crime center in which surveillance cameras would be placed in certain parts of town. This would enable dispatchers to look at the area and provide specific information, such as the description of the individual or a vehicle that is involved, to officers enroute to the scene.
“If we can get out there fast and keep the crime from happening,” Vermillion said, the department would be making headway toward its goal of reducing crime. “Even if we achieve it, that will become the level to beat.”
Vermillion, who began his career as a patrol officer in Calistoga in June 1997, sees a strong correlation between personnel and reducing crime. The Pleasant Hill department has 36 sworn officers and needs to hire six or seven more to fulfill his objective of improving services to the community.
However, he noted that finding officers is “a challenge right now in the industry as whole” at the local, state and national levels.
The new chief identified property crime as the main problem facing the community, and “we will always be trying to reduce it.”
Vermillion and Pleasant Hill’s elected officials are on the same page for goals going forward, including prioritizing crime prevention in partnership with the community.
“It is important that people feel safe, and they live in a safe community,” said Vermillion, the father of teenagers.
His personal goal is that the men and women of the department have the support of the community. And, in pursuing that, “we have our department doing things right and making a difference.”
David Scholz is back in journalism as a freelance writer and photographer after nearly two decades in education. Prior to moving into teaching in 2000, he worked as a full-time journalist since 1988 for rural community and small daily newspapers in Central Ohio and Northern Nevada, and later in California with The Business Journal in Fresno and dailies in the Bay Area, including The Oakland Tribune and The San Francisco Chronicle. More recently Scholz also worked in an editing, writing, and page layout role with the Rossmoor News.