The Oakdale City Council announced that retired Modesto Police Chief Michael Harden will lead the city’s police force this July upon the retirement of current Police Chief Lester Jenkins.
The announcement was made by Mayor Pat Paul and City Attorney Tom Hallinan prior to the start of the Monday, May 16 city council meeting. Harden is expected to start with the city May 23 and assist in the transition of police leadership.
“We’re excited to have an experienced police chief like Chief Harden,” Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer said after the meeting. “His overall knowledge of law enforcement practices in Stanislaus County is a huge plus for us.”
Whitemyer said he had worked with Harden when both were at the City of Modesto and had recommended him to the council.
Harden’s law enforcement experience dates back to 1983 when he was appointed as a reserve police officer for the Modesto Police Department and then hired fulltime in 1984.
He climbed through the ranks, being promoted to sergeant in 1994, and lieutenant in 2000. Shortly after being promoted to captain in 2003, he was selected to be the assistant police chief and later appointed to be chief of the 285 sworn and 110 non-sworn personnel department in 2009.
After retiring in 2012, Harden served as interim city manager in Hughson in 2013 and later as interim police chief for Escalon.
“I look forward to meeting the officers, civilian staff and Oakdale community,” Harden said when contacted on Tuesday. “I’m excited with the position and my eyes are wide open with respect to the department.”
In addition to the day-to-day duties and evaluating the department’s needs, Harden said he would be assisting in the search for a permanent chief of police.
“I hope to use my experience from Modesto in the things we (MPD) did well,” Harden said. “I’m sure they (OPD) do all those things right now, but this gives me an opportunity to assist.”
Harden said the department has always had a good reputation which attracted him to the interim opportunity after being asked by Whitemyer.
“In the next few months I hope to meet with the various city leaders, business owners, chamber of commerce, and concerned citizens,” Harden said.
Whitemyer was also complimentary about the outgoing police chief, Lester Jenkins.
“I can’t say enough about Chief Jenkins during my time here,” Whitemyer said. “He’s been the perfect chief during the recession and tough financial times we experienced.”
Chief Jenkins said he had worked with Harden for many years and felt the he was a “straight shooter” who would fit in with the department.
“I’m very pleased with their selection,” Chief Jenkins said, “I consider him quite capable and feel better about stepping out with him coming in.”