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New Atascadero Police Chief talks goals for the future

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Posted at 12:44 PM, Mar 01, 2021

The City of Atascadero welcomed a new police chief at the beginning of this year.

Chief Robert Masterson has 35 years of law enforcement experience including two other roles as chief of police. In fact, he led the first police department in California that mandated every officer to carry a mounted camera on their gun.

His first day on the job in Atascadero was Jan. 4, 2021.

"I've heard nothing but good about it from its citizens and other law enforcement agencies," Chief Masterson said during a one-on-one interview with KSBY.

He's now in charge of more than two dozen officers.

"The Atascadero Police Department is professionalism, partnerships, and personal growth and I think those three p's really sum up a good motivation and a good work ethic for any chief of police," he explained.

Masterson started his law enforcement career with Tulare County Sheriff's Department in 1986. In 2007, he retired as a lieutenant and transitioned into a new role as the director of a nonprofit helping at-risk youth in Visalia.

"One of my assignments at the sheriff's department was a detective in charge of the gang unit so I got to know the gang problem rather well in Tulare County and I thought I had a good chance at keeping kids out of trouble instead of putting them away."

After about a year and a half, he became the chief of police at the College of the Sequoias. He was there for eight years before becoming police chief in King City in 2016. That's where he outfitted the entire department with the Viridian, a weapons-based camera mounted system to provide true transparency.

"A lot of problems with the body cam is an officer's standard gun stance tends to hide the vision of the body cam."

The system was tested at the department for about a year before going full-fledged.

"During a lot of turmoil in the United States about police accountability so it's not that we were responding to that but we had already started to implement it and it couldn't have come at a better time."

He said he'd be interested in getting these cameras in Atascadero if the need is there.

"It might just be a time for the first six months for me to just sit back and evaluate and see what's going on."

Chief Masterson says one of the larger issues he hopes to tackle is how to engage with the homeless and not just shuffle the population to another jurisdiction.

"To see if we can help them better their life and lessen the burden on them to where they're not homeless anymore."

He says his number one goal for the department is to see what they can do better.

"I believe there's always room for improvement. There are always new things coming along. There's always a change in the law that you have to keep up with. There's the change of the community that you need to keep up with because sometimes communities shift within their desire of what they want to see from their police department."

In his personal life, Chief Masterson has been married to his wife for 15 years. They have two kids ages 5 and 6.

The chief also has hobbies which include hiking our local trails with his family and taking part in geocaching, a treasure hunt game.