Simi Valley appoints Steve Shorts as next police chief
Veteran lawman Steve Shorts has been selected as Simi Valley's new chief of police.
Shorts, 56, has served with the Simi Valley Police Department for 21 of his 33 years in law enforcement, most recently as interim chief following the Dec. 16 retirement of his predecessor, David Livingstone.
Shorts will be the first Black individual and the first minority to lead the agency. The appointment by City Manager Brian Gabler takes effect Monday.
Shorts said the 185-member department is more ethnically and gender diverse than at any other time in its history, which he called a “big deal” for the agency.
"We have to keep our finger on the pulse of what the community wants," he said. "(Our officers) understand what's on the minds of the community members and what they think they need."
Some things are obvious, like addressing vehicle burglaries, he said. Other times, there are things officers only know about through relationships.
"When you have that relationship, people are going to give you information and they're going to partner with you to continue to keep the community safe," Shorts said.
Livingstone said his successor is a "phenomenal" and capable leader whose appointment is a “big moment” for Simi Valley.
“The department is reflecting the community,” Livingstone said.
Gabler said Shorts “wasn’t keeping the seat warm” as interim chief. Even with the temporary appointment, Gabler said, Shorts followed through on initiatives. The new chief is knowledgeable about changes in state law as well as the latest practices in law enforcement, he said.
“He is a consummate professional. He is well respected in the department as well as in the region,” Gabler said. “He brings a lot of value and knowledge to the community and will carry forward the community needs in policing with a lot of understanding and caring.”
Mayor Fred Thomas said in a statement that Shorts' "experience, leadership skills and vision for the department is unmatched."
Shorts grew up in the Wilshire district of Los Angeles and said he learned at an early age about the presence of gangs and other social issues. He has known friends and family members affected by the foster care system, addiction, developmental disabilities, human trafficking and the criminal justice system. His approach to policing has been informed by those personal experiences.
“That has manifested itself into who I am now,” Shorts said. “Everybody has a story.”
He didn’t enter law enforcement thinking he would one day serve as police chief. The Ventura County resident started his career with the Los Angeles City Park Rangers before joining Simi police in 2000. His assignments have included work with the patrol and gang suppression units as well as stints as a property crimes detective, school resource officer, field training officer, police academy instructor and supervisor for the homeless liaison. He holds a master’s degree in emergency services administration from CSU Long Beach.
Gabler said Shorts’ experience working with vulnerable populations means he is well connected to agencies and resources beyond Simi, including Ventura County Behavioral Health, which Gabler said will “pay dividends” as the city addresses issues like homelessness.
Livingstone said Shorts introduced the idea of the vulnerable-populations detective role as a way to get away from the “revolving door” of arrests in order to create long-term solutions for individuals who are homeless by helping connect them with resources, programs and family members.
Shorts will assume the leadership role as the nation grapples with several high-profile deaths at the hands of police. His appointment will take effect three days after the release of body camera footage showing the fatal beating by Memphis police of Tyre Nichols.
The new chief said it is his job to make sure his officers conduct themselves according to a high standard and understand that rules and regulations also apply to them.
"The power that we have comes from the people," Shorts said. "In my opinion, it doesn't matter what your race or gender is. The expectation is to do the right thing and treat people with respect and dignity."
Livingstone said Shorts' greatest challenge will perhaps lie in the “balancing act” of community policing, which includes enforcing laws but also using tools other than tickets and arrests to address social problems. He said that includes engagement with the community and a higher level of transparency for police.
"Part of community policing is being transparent, opening the books and saying, 'Look, here's where we did something good,'" the former chief said. "But also, when the bad things happen, you've got to have the same sense of openness."
The new chief’s priorities will include hiring and retention with a focus on diversity, including recruiting more female officers. But that doesn't mean they'll lower standards, he said. He plans to promote two assistant chiefs by the end of March and will also focus on forming a new strategic plan to make crystal clear what the department’s priorities and objectives will be over the next few years.
Shorts said he will work closely with other law enforcement officials, including Sheriff Jim Fryhoff, interim Santa Paula Police Chief Don Aguilar and District Attorney Erik Nasarenko, to keep the region safe.
Crime rates have dropped in Simi since the pandemic, but Shorts said he is dedicated to continually improving how the department serves the community.
It's a dedication that runs in the family. His own father served in law enforcement.
"My passion has always been community policing, community outreach and engagement," Shorts said. "A lot of that really just comes from where I came from and where I grew up."
Shorts will receive an annual base salary of $220,000.
Dawn Megli is an investigative and watchdog reporter for the Ventura County Star. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or @ReporterDawn. This story was made possible by a grant from the Ventura County Community Foundation’s Fund to Support Local Journalism.
This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: Simi Valley appoints interim police chief Steve Shorts to lead agency