Redding has a new police chief, a North State native who kicked off his 31-year law enforcement career at RPD while he was still a teenager.
Capt. Brian Barner took the reins in November, following former Chief Bill Schueller's retirement earlier this month. Barner is Redding’s third police chief in six years.
“If you’re running an agency correctly, you don’t want a police chief that hasn’t come up through the ranks," he said. "I think it’s important to have the experience of being a beat cop, a K-9 handler...," etc.
While a junior at Shasta High School, Barner joined the Redding Police Department as a police explorer in 1992. He returned to the department as a cadet in 1994, then as a recruit in 1997. Since then, he has served the RPD as a corporal, patrol sergeant, detective sergeant, traffic sergeant, patrol lieutenant, administrative lieutenant and a patrol and administrative captain.
While Barner said he doesn’t anticipate making "any sweeping changes,” he does want his department to more deeply focus on improving the quality of life that Redding residents experience. He said the entire department has worked to make Redding safe for businesses and residents, and to reduce fire danger to the community from illegal homeless camps.
During the COVID pandemic shutdown and for months afterward, the department had to lessen those efforts due to low staffing, Barner said.
But this year, Barner inherited a more robust department.
When Schueller became chief in September 2019, following former Chief Roger Moore’s retirement, RPD had 106 officers on staff. “We now have 122 officers,” a 15% increase, Barner said.
Note to readers: If you appreciate the work we do here at the Redding Record Searchlight, please consider subscribing yourself or giving the gift of a subscription to someone you know.
Barner recently sat down with the Record Searchlight to explain his future plans for the department and what he will do to address homelessness, rising crime rates and keeping Redding schools safe. Comments have been edited for length.
Record Searchlight: Redding officers began using body cameras this year. Who is wearing them and will the public have access to any camera footage?Barner: All our uniformed officers and community service officers are wearing the BWC (body-worn cameras), which began in August 2023. The program has been successful and embraced by our officers. Many of our lateral officers from other agencies had BWC’s and knew the value they brought to law enforcement.The public access is the same as any other, following the Public Records Act Request. Email the RPD at email@example.com.
Record Searchlight: There’s a lot of discussion about homelessness in Redding, and if displacing homeless camps is the right thing to do. How will you address the problem of homeless camps on city-owned or other property?
Barner: Homeless camps on city and private property are a constant complaint.
We now have several units dedicated to a multi pronged approach to addressing the problem, although it's much bigger than just the police department (can) solve.
We have our Crisis Intervention Response Team that consists of four officers and a mental health worker, out every day offering assistance for those in the homeless camps. Prior to our large illegal homeless camp cleanups, CIRT will work for several weeks providing outreach for those willing to take the help. Unfortunately, many do not want the help. We will continue to work with our non-profit organizations and city housing for solutions, but we need voluntary compliance for those in the illegal camps to be successful.For the cleanups, we have our Community Work Program officers, bike team, neighborhood police unit, and park rangers. All of these units, along with patrol officers, work together to clean up the illegal camps on city property.
(Regarding) camps on private property: We'll assist the property owner, but the property owner is ultimately responsible for the camp and trash cleanup on their property. This is a huge cost to private property owners to cleanup the camps.RPD will continue to proactively address quality of life issues, and illegal camps are one of those issues. The community as a whole has a clear expectation for our department and the city to address quality of life, making people feel safe while going to work, walking the river trail, visiting one of our many parks and/or open spaces, going out to dinner or shopping. We're full staffed and will work to address these issues.
Record Searchlight: According to the city’s website, reported larceny went up by 30.2% in 2022 over 2021. Aggravated assaults were up by 18.1%, burglary by 16.7% and car thefts by 5.2%. By comparison, homicides dropped by a third, and rape by 22.9%. How do you plan to address spikes in non-violent crime and assaults, while still keeping other violent crime rates low?
Barner: We will continue to be proactive and address crime. We have several directed enforcement operations currently being worked with our retail stores being targeted by criminals. Our detective division does a great job on solving cases involving major crimes, such as homicides and sexual assaults.In my opinion, non-violent crime numbers have increased due to the de-criminalization of laws in California over the past decade. There simply are no repercussions for those criminals committing low level, non-violent crimes. These criminals know this, and are taking advantage of the system.
I also believe numbers were decreased during COVID and are now returning to normal levels we saw pre-COVID.
Record Searchlight: When hired in 2019, Police Chief Bill Schueller said he had been groomed for his role. Did he groom you for your role as leader of the police force, too? What did he teach you?
Barner: I definitely came up through the ranks ― hired by Bob Blankenship ― and worked for Chief Moty, Hansen, Paoletti, Moore and Schueller, all of (whom) mentored me and showed me different aspects of leadership that I used to make my style. Chief Schueller and I worked side by side for the past four years: He as a chief and me as his captain. He definitely did mentor me and we worked well together as a team to make critical decisions for our department.
I'm proud of the accomplishments we made over the past four years together, building a great leadership team that will help us continue our success.
Record Searchlight: Given the large number of officers getting close to retirement age statewide, what do you plan to do to attract new hires? How many recruits do you think you’ll need over the next five or 10 years?
Barner: We actually have the youngest officer age we have ever had. Our retirements are spread out to only a few each year. We are one of the few agencies in California that can say we are full staff, both sworn officers and non-sworn. I credit that to having a community that supports their law enforcement, a department with a great reputation that encourages officers to be proactive, a supportive administration and a city council that supports the department both fiscally and growth. We are able to recruit high quality candidates and all emphasize that they want to work with RPD because we are the best agency with a great reputation.
Record Searchlight: Recently there was a school shooting scare in Mount Shasta. Will you change the way RPD deals with school safety and threats?
Barner: We have a very strong active shooter training program for when an incident occurs. We've been doing department training and have expanded to training with our allied public safety agencies in the past year. I credit our active shooter instructors and the Shield Training Consortium on bringing all our agencies together to train for an incident, if it occurs. Our school resource officers have a great relationship with our schools, providing training and communication for school safety and threats.
Jessica Skropanic is a features reporter for the Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. She covers science, arts, social issues and news stories. Follow her on Twitter @RS_JSkropanic and on Facebook. Join Jessica in the Get Out! Nor Cal recreation Facebook group. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today. Thank you.
This article originally appeared on Redding Record Searchlight: How new Redding Police Chief Brian Barner plans to address homelessness