ATASCADERO — January 4, 2021, marked the first official day in charge for new Atascadero Police Chief Robert “Bob” Masterson. The new chief is taking over for former chief Jerel Haley whose last day was in October of 2020 after serving the Atascadero Police Department for nine years.
The Atascadero News reached out to the new chief this week to set up an interview to find out a little about him and what we can expect to see in the City of Atascadero in the coming months.
Chief Masterson began his law enforcement career in 1986 with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department. He was hired to serve as a Deputy Trainee and worked his way through the ranks to the position of Police Lieutenant in 2001.
After seven years as a Lieutenant, Masterson left the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department to become the director of a faith-based non-profit organization that provided gang prevention to at-risk youth before becoming the Chief of Police for the College of Sequoias Community College.
For the past five years, Masterson has worked as the police chief in King City, making tremendous strides in reducing violent crime. He was a crucial component in the City’s comprehensive plan to end youth violence. Masterson was so successful he received a Congressional commendation letter for violent crime reduction in King City as well as commendations from the State Assembly and Senate.
Masterson is no stranger to the Central Coast area and attributes our special piece of California as one of the main reasons he decided to put his name in for the Atascadero position.
“My wife and I kind of came over here to the San Luis Obispo area just because it was where we decided we wanted to raise our children,” Masterson said. “What drew us to Atascadero was the connection at ABC [Atascadero Bible Church], I knew quite a few people over here already that moved from the valley over here working for the Sheriff’s department, and they actually all live in Atascadero, so I started hanging around here.”
One thing that has been very apparent in all his stops in law enforcement has been the relationships that he has been able to foster with the community around him, which is something he hopes to start in Atascadero.
“I believe to foster a relationship with the community, you have to become part of the community,” the chief explained. “So, that is just up to me being out and about a lot and being at events and being visible — when we can have them — but popping into local businesses and saying, ‘Hi’ to people and talking to service groups. Really just becoming part of the community is how you get to know them.”
When it comes to making any changes within the department, Masterson says it is too early to know as he has only been in charge less than a week but plans to continue the special enforcement unit that helps work with the homeless population in Atascadero. Former chief Haley brought the program back in August 2020 to help with the City’s growing problem of unhoused neighbors.
“We will absolutely keep the special enforcement unit in place,” Materson said. “It is a good tool to assist the homeless in dealing with any issues they may encounter, but I would also like to look at expanding our outreach to the homeless population and get the services they can really benefit from and perhaps find them a permanent place to live.”
When it comes to the topic of COVID-19 and State restrictions, the new chief explained that he believes in educating the public and working towards voluntary compliance.
Chief Masterson was officially confirmed at the December 8, 2020, City Council meeting.