In September, the City of Oakley announced the hiring of La Habra Police Captain Dean Capelletti as its next police chief. He was sworn in on Sept. 28.
Capelletti was promoted to police captain on January 7, 2017 after beginning his police career with La Habra Police Department in 2002. Over his career, he served as an officer before being promoted to detective, sergeant along with receiving multiple accolades from MADD Deuce Award and a Lifesaving Medal.
It was the September 11 attacks that Capelletti said made him go into law enforcement as a career.
“I was working in the private sector as a distribution center manager for a furniture company. Law enforcement had always interested me, my father always had a great respect for law enforcement, and I respected law enforcement,” explained Capelletti. “9/11 hit and it was something that told me that I needed to do something with my life. I enjoyed my occupation, it was paying the rent, but I felt like I wasn’t doing enough.”
He joked that he knew he didn’t want to be a fireman, so he signed up and put himself through the police academy. Since he had a mortgage and a family, he couldn’t stop working, so he put in 50-60 hours to get through the academy while taking care of his family.
“Halfway through the academy, the Contra Costa County Sheriff and La Habra recruited me,” explained Capelletti. “La Habra moved faster and that is the history of me and La Habra.”
He further highlighted how vital it was to have family support while putting in 60-hours a week between work and the academy. He says whether it’s law enforcement or any career, family support is important.
“I couldn’t have been here today without my family. Whether it was in the beginning where I was becoming a police officer, whether in my entire career and now moving them halfway across the state, it’s all with their support,” said Capelletti. “Family support is huge.”
In fact, it was his wife who is a dispatcher, who found the ad for the Oakley Police Chief position. She knew he wanted to come back to Northern California whether through a police chief position or retirement, so she kept lookout for job openings.
“She knew I am very selective and didn’t want to be a chief for the title, I wanted the right fit and the right city, right police department and knew I preferred a smaller department,” explained Capelletti. “La Habra is double the size of Oakley, but I didn’t want a police department more than a 100 people, I want to know all of my officers and their families.”
He admits he does not know how his wife stumbled across the ad for the Oakley Police Department and being from Northern California across the bay he had never heard of the City of Oakley before the interview process.
He looked Oakley up and a couple days later he was called by a recruiter who shared the position and the opportunity available.
“That 4th of July weekend I drove up that morning, drove the city, loved the city, loved the vibe and checked things out,” said Capelletti. “There is good growth, and it was proper planning with the infrastructure, then I got online and did research on the police department, city manager, city council and I kept reading good thing after good thing. It was a great stable city manager, stable city council, people who are supportive of law enforcement.”
Capelletti says he is most excited about growing with the city as police chief.
“This is a great police department. We have great people here,” stated Capelletti. “As I finish up my second week as police chief, what I think is great about my officers, they do great police work, what they have and this is something you can’t recruit, something you can’t buy or teach, is that they really care about the city. The city means something to them. The citizens mean something to them, the community means something to them. I see that and I feel that so I am excited to grow our department and grow it responsibility.”
Capelletti hopes to bring more community outreach to Oakley, new processes to the department and utilize more technology.
“I can’t share everything I plan to do, the last two weeks have been a whirlwind learning policy and procedures, I believe in a very transparent police department, sharing what I can and if I can’t I will share why,” stated Capelletti.
In terms of number of officers, Capelletti says he is evaluating the numbers and how they can police intelligently, noting that the budget is a concern. He wants to grow fiscally responsibly, and says they might add other positions within the department if it helps the officers do their jobs more efficiently.
“I want to see where we can put the best resources where we can do the best things which is growing responsibly. I could come in here and say we need 10 officers, but there are long-term effects with that,” explained Capelletti who is looking at number of officers, crime data, response times and other information to make recommendations at a later date. “I want to make sure our officers are safe and the community is safe, but I don’t want to do anything without evaluating it.”
Capelletti did say they are proactively recruiting lateral officers with at least one new officer joining the department from San Francisco in a few weeks and another who is in the process.
“We are aware of the challenges with recruiting. Countrywide recruiting is difficult getting quality people. I want to bring quality people, not just numbers. I want good people who fit Oakley and fit our culture,” stated Capelletti.
In terms of national rhetoric, Capelletti states that officers have dealt with this for a long time even though it may seem louder today, and that officers are always adapting.
“I feel for them, but I am proud of them because they know they have always been presented with this,” explained Capelletti. “It’s a larger issue now, very rarely do you get an officer who is being patted on the back saying you are doing a great job. They don’t do it for that, they do it for the call and the love they have that you just want to help. My officers just want to help, they don’t care about the rhetoric. They are going to do what is right. I respect them a lot and its an honor to lead a group of people like that. Our officers here hear it, but they try and ignore it, it doesn’t change what they do. If they are doing the right thing, they are going to continue to do the right thing and that is what our community expects. Do the right thing, always be polite, be professional even when our citizens aren’t.”
Capelletti admitted it may be difficult at times, but officers always adapt and don’t let the voice of some change what they believe is right and correct.
In working with neighboring cities, Capelletti says many within Contra Costa County have already reached out to him. He looks forward to working closely with Antioch Police Chief Tammany Brooks and Brentwood Police Chief Tom Hansen on the borders and working together as a team.
Some of the challenges Capelletti sees is understanding what the community wants, including more traffic enforcement, dealing with the homeless and other quality of life issues.
When Capelletti is not on the clock as a police chief, he is a big San Francisco 49ers fan and has had season tickets. In fact, he would drive up from Southern California on game days leaving at 2:00 am to watch the games and then come back home.
He considers himself an “Average Joe” who loves Bay Area sports teams, mixed martial arts, working out and spending time with his family to decompress. He is a fan of the TV Show the Walking Dead and tries to go to the movies once a week (pre-covid).
Capelletti closed the interview by thanking the community for welcoming him to the community and for supporting the police department.
“I have only been here two weeks and I love Oakley and our people,” said Capelletti.
Bio according to La Habra Police Department
Captain of Services, Dean Capelletti
Dean Capelletti was appointed to Police Captain of Services on January 7, 2017. Captain Capelletti began his career with the La Habra Police Department in 2002. He has, over the course of his career, served as a detective, was the Sergeant for the Professional Standards Bureau, overseen the Investigations Bureau, was responsible for the management of the jail and oversaw the associated contractual employees. Among Dean’s many contributions, he also served as the department’s Certified Composite Artist, and his work has been instrumental in helping solve a number of cases.
Dean’s commitment to serve his department and community have earned him numerous accolades, including the MADD Deuce Award and a Lifesaving Medal. He has served as an Explorer Advisor, a Field Training Officer, a member of the Range Staff, a North County SWAT Team Leader and Team Supervisor, and has mentored department academy recruits. He also participates in the yearly Special Olympics Torch Run, and assisted with the department’s Open House.
Captain Capelletti holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Police Management from Union Institute and University and a Master of Public Administration with Specialization in Organizational Leadership from National University.