Santa Cruz Police Deputy Chief Bernie Escalante has been appointed to serve as the Interim Chief, effective Oct. 30.
A Santa Cruz native, Escalante is a 25-year veteran of the Santa Cruz Police Department, having started his career as a community service officer in 1996.
Since then, he served as a patrol officer, sergeant, detective and tactical team leader, among other assignments. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2009, where he managed the Investigations Division and was the Commander of the Emergency Services Unit Tactical Team. He was also the primary lieutenant in the Neighborhood Policing Unit.
He was appointed to the rank of Deputy Chief in February 2020.
“Interim Chief Escalante will bring to the position a deep knowledge of department operations and officers and a sharp focus on serving the needs of the community,” said Interim City Manager Rosemary Menard in a press release. “He brings a track record of results, particularly in investigations and neighborhood policing, and I am confident in his leadership as he takes on this critical role for the City.”
In a press release, Escalante stated that he plans to, “hit the ground running” in trying to fill in for outgoing Police Chief Andy Mills.
“My first priorities will be building our staffing and expanding on the trusting community relationships and innovative problem-solving brought to Santa Cruz by Chief Mills,” he stated. “I am constantly impressed by the dedication and professionalism of our law enforcement team here in Santa Cruz, and I am honored to lead this dynamic department as an Interim Chief.”
Escalante grew up on the west side of Santa Cruz. He went to Santa Cruz High, where he played football, basketball and baseball. He earned a bachelor’s degree in social science from San Francisco State, and continued to play baseball. Escalante went on to get a master’s degree in law enforcement and public safety leadership from the University of San Diego. He completed the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Law Enforcement Command College in 2014.
Escalante will serve in the role of Interim Chief until a permanent appointee is named, which is expected to occur following the appointment of a permanent City Manager, city spokeswoman Elizabeth Smith said.