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Hardgraves takes over as new Chief of Police
new epd

You can take the word ‘interim’ off the title.

Robert Anthony Hardgraves Jr. – who had been serving as interim Police Chief for the City of Escalon – was unanimously named to the chief position at the Monday night, May 6 Escalon City Council meeting.

Sergeant Hardgraves had been in the interim position since the early March resignation of former chief Gus Flores and, Interim City Manager Jaylen French said, had filled the interim role twice before during extended medical leaves for Flores.

Hardgraves was on hand for the council meeting, there in his interim role to provide the monthly police department report, as all department heads do, and answer any questions the council might have regarding that report.

The approval of an employment agreement between Hardgraves and the city, setting his salary and terms of his employment, came late in the roughly 90-minute session, as ‘Item No. 11’ on the council agenda.

“The chief of police and the city manager are the two positions at the staff level that have contracts that are directly with the council,” French explained. “In my opinion, Interim Chief Hardgraves has done a fantastic job and is definitely worthy of a contract with the city.”

Council member Shawn Strohman posed a question to Hardgraves prior to any action by the council on the employment agreement, asking him what his vision is for the department in the next three to five years.

“Right now, we have a pretty good group of guys, I would like to see it expand; I have a few people who I hope would stay with our agency, a few are obviously going to go off to larger agencies, usually the younger officers tend to want to go to larger agencies, a little more excitement there, little more gung ho,” Hardgraves noted in answer to Strohman’s query.

That was something that the new chief also wanted – at first – but in hindsight said he is glad he has remained a longtime employee here.

“When I was younger, I wanted to go to a larger agency; luckily, due to some things in the economy at the time and then some things with PERS (Public Employees’ Retirement System) I ended up staying here which, when I first kind of ‘got stuck’ here I resented it but now I thank God that those things happened the way they did because this is such a great town, a great community.”

Hardgraves added that he has been with the police department for 19 years and is ready to take on the role of chief, minus the ‘interim’ label.

“I plan on being here the next 10-plus years and I think the department has had high spots and low spots and I’d like to see it get back to the high spots where we have officers that are more experienced,” Hardgraves said.

There were no other questions from the council and none from the audience before the council moved to make Hardgraves the city’s next police chief.

“You’re up to the challenge, it sounds like,” Mayor Dave Bellinger offered.

Strohman also addressed Hardgraves directly, regarding his interim work.

“Interim Chief, if the last month and change is any indication on what your energy brings to the department, I feel like the City of Escalon Police Department will be in more than capable hands,” Strohman said. “I appreciate your dedication to the City of Escalon in the last 19 years and this just kind of puts the icing on the cake.”

Strohman then made the motion to approve the employment agreement between Hardgraves and the city; both Mayor Pro Tem Andy Hagan and council member Malinda Walker jumped in to offer a second.

Hagan deferred to Walker to second the motion and it was approved by a 5-0 vote of the council.

“Welcome aboard,” Bellinger said to Hardgraves, as those on the dais and in the audience applauded the action.