Mesa residents will see some new faces at police community meetings as two assistant chiefs retire in early May and other officers are promoted.
The changes mean even more shifting in a department that has been rapidly changing since Police Chief George Gascón left the Los Angeles Police Department and was hired by Mesa nearly two years ago.
Assistant Chief Gil Otanez, who has 29 years of service, is scheduled to leave the department Thursday, and Assistant Chief Dave Zielonka, a 28-year-veteran, will work his last day May 10.
Promoted in their place as assistant chiefs will be Cmdrs. Mike Dvorak and Mike Denney, who was hired by the department last fall.The two will hold the same rank as Assistant Chief John Meza, who is Gascón's second in command.
"Each of them brings different things to the table, but in my mind they were the best qualified to perform the duties," Gascón said.
Gascón said Denney has worked as a commander at the Arizona Department of Public Safety and also is a former prosecutor and Dvorak has been with the department many years and has successfully overseen patrol and support services.
Cmdr. Joe Shelley, the head of the Dobson Ranch District who has led a handful of discussions at recent community meetings, will now oversee the Metro Resources Division, which consists of traffic, SWAT, the Center Against Family Violence, and homicide and fraud detectives.
Lt. Andy Alonzo has been promoted to commander and will head the Dobson Ranch District.
Lt. Mark Wesselman will move from the Center Against Family Violence to be commander of the human resources division.
Not long after Gascón stepped in as police chief, a handful of the department's command staff retired. Former Cmdrs. David Ashe, Steve Toland and Ron Kirby were among the group, which also included former assistant police chiefs G.T. Fowler and Les Portee.
Following their retirements, Gascón held a worldwide search for new commanders. While some of them were promoted from within the department, Denney and Cmdr. Vicki Myers, of the Superstition District, were hired from outside.
When Gascón became chief, he touted a plan to hold commanders to a higher level of accountability through the crime-fighting tool CompStat - a management tool for police departments.
During CompStat meetings, commanders must answer questions about crime in their districts and what's being done to stop it.