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Orange County Focus

BUENA PARK : Police Chief Begins Term, Tells of Firing

January 03, 1990|SHELBY GRAD

Buena Park's new police chief began work this week, 2 1/2 months after being fired as chief of the Pomona Police Department in a dispute with the Pomona City Council.

Richard M. Tefank, 44, said he has spent most of the time since his Dec. 22 selection orienting himself with the 140-person Buena Park Police Department.

City officials defended Tefank's selection, noting that he was chosen from a field of 46 candidates judged by a panel of local law-enforcement experts. Tefank was dismissed by a divided Pomona council on Oct. 17 when some council members charged that his department was mismanaged. They also cited the city's murder rate, which reached a record high in 1989, and alleged poor morale in the department.

Tefank's ouster was part of a mass exodus of Pomona officials in 1989, including the dismissal of the city administrator and the resignation or firing of six other department heads.

His firing also came at a time of political upheavals in Pomona, where a new council majority regularly clashed with the mayor, and a recall campaign against one council member has begun.

The San Bernardino County Police Chiefs Assn. decried Tefank's dismissal and called for state and county investigations of the Pomona council's action.

Tefank said Tuesday that he was fired after he refused to act on the council's desire to remove employees in his department "without due process."

In a written statement, Buena Park City Manager Kevin O'Rourke said that because of the turmoil in Pomona, Tefank's dismissal was not an issue in his hiring.

Tefank was put on the city's payroll Dec. 22 for the $77,000-a-year job after an interview with O'Rourke, who made the final decision.

Tefank holds a bachelor's degree in police administration from Cal State University, Los Angeles. He first worked as a police officer in Montclair before going to work for the Pomona police in 1972. He became chief in 1986.

Tefank said he is still getting to know the people in his department and the community it serves.

"From what I've gathered so far, this is an outstanding organization with a qualified and capable group of people," he said. "I'm excited about getting started."

Tefank replaces Robert Reber, 60, who retired from the department last month after 14 years as chief.

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