As the population in Murrieta has doubled, so has the police force. Accompanying that growth has been Murrieta Police Chief Mark Wright.
"I have doubled the size of the police department during a record population growth period of the City," Wright, 54, said in an e-mail to Patch.
Now, after eight years, Wright has announced he will retire. According to Wright, he is taking a small retirement incentive offered to City employees--two months salary.
He said the offer was given to those who met certain requirements and were willing to retire by June.
"Several City employees are going to do so--including me. The timing is good and these particular retirements will actually save the City money over the next two years."
Wright's salary was $210,537 before he agreed to take a 5 percent pay cut, which was effective in January.
"My retirement is certainly no surprise. I have served in law enforcement for over 31 years--my last eight as chief. I will be 55 this July. I could have retired at 50. I have accomplished all I can in my career and I feel it is now the time to spend more time with my family and to allow someone else to lead the organization."
Then and Now
There were 46 sworn officers in 2003 when Wright was hired as chief after serving as a captain in the Hermosa Beach Police Department, where he began his public safety career 31 years ago.
Today there are 87 sworn officers. The City has ranked in the in the U.S. for the last five years, which Wright said has a lot to do with his call to increase and mandate strict formal education requirements for all supervision and management.
"The reputation of this department in law enforcement circles is extremely high.
"No one can be a Murrieta Police Sergeant unless they possess an accredited (bachelor's) degree. No one compete to be a lieutenant or captain unless they possess an advanced degree and a formal training program," Wright said.
Examples are a master's degree or graduating from the FBI Academy, Command College or West Point Leadership Program.
"Top quality and outstanding service are our priorities and I have engrained core organizational values that stress integrity and accountability. Our employees are award winning and get recognition by County and State organizations."
Finding a Replacement
Wright said City Manager Rick Dudley is interviewing both captains on the force--Captain Mike Baray and Captain Steve Porter--to decide which is the best fit to serve as interim chief for three to six months. During the interim period, Wright said Dudley has advised him that he will determine whether to hire the temporary chief as the full-time chief, or to begin a recruitment from the outside.
"The decision as to which course he will take has not yet been finalized. Only time will tell," Wright said.
Wright's retirement comes after the City's other public safety entity, the Murrieta Fire Department, has been without a chief for eight months. Hemet's Fire Chief Matt Shobert will be starting the position as Murrieta Fire Chief this month.
UDATE 3/17: Captain Mike Baray has been selected to serve as the interim police chief upon Wright's retirement in June, Assistant City Manager Jim Holston confirmed Thursday.