BY BEVERLY BARELA, CONTRIBUTED
Clovis councilmember Drew Bessinger has been hired by the City of Atwater as the new Interim Police Chief.
The New Jersey native assumed the position July 2.
Bessinger, 61, was in the military police for four years while in the U.S. Army before joining the U.S. Department of Defense Police in Virginia.
He started as a police officer in 1980 with the Santa Barbara Police Department and then worked for the Fresno State Police Department for a few years. He then spent 22 years with the Clovis Police Department and retired as Captain in 2009.
A Fresno State graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration, Bessinger has served an interim chief in Kingsburg, Fowler, and Parlier, and is currently Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Clovis.
His salary will be at the rate of $139,857 without benefits.
As to whether Bessinger would ever become full-time in Atwater, his retirement from PERS limits him to working 960 hours in a fiscal year or he would be heavily penalized.
In a news release, Atwater Interim City Manager Lori Waterman stated, “The decision to bring on Mr. Bessinger was based on his years of experience serving as an interim chief of police and his broad background in law enforcement. We felt at this time our department needed a fresh, objective look to move forward in a positive direction.”
Former interim chief Armando Echevarria has returned to his former position of sergeant. Echevarria was appointed interim police chief on Jan. 22 by then interim city manager Art de Werk to replace Atwater Police Chief Sam Joseph, whom he placed on paid administrative leave.
What is Bessinger’s role in the Atwater Police Department?
He will oversee management of the department until such time as Chief Joseph is reinstated or removed from the position.
“My understanding is that my role would be a sworn law enforcement officer/consultant,” Bessinger said. “I will evaluate personnel, training, practices, and policies. I will conduct an evidence room audit and a weapons audit. Basically, what I will do is take a look at the agency – how it’s functioning, if there are any best practices for law enforcement, what we’re doing well, and what we can improve on. I will evaluate the agency as an entity.”