Hughes, 33, will take the office in December, Morris said. She will train under current Chief Tyrone Spencer, who is retiring in January after a career in local law enforcement that spans more than 27 years. Hughes will become Patterson’s first female police chief.
Hughes, currently the North Area Watch Commander for the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office, was chosen over West Area Watch Commander Mario Cisneros and Central Area Command Chief Mike Radford after a series of interviews with City Council members, police chiefs and local residents.
While Morris ultimately has authority over hiring and firing the chief in the city’s contract with the county for police services, he opted for a lengthy interview process that was praised by Mayor Becky Campo.
The three candidates each went through interviews with Morris as well as with three panels — one comprising other area police chiefs, one of community members and one of the City Council. Each was scored on the different interviews, and those scores led to Morris’ decision.
“As far as we’re aware, no other cities would have gone to those lengths to choose a chief,” Campo said. “But (Morris) wanted to prove the new chief would be the people’s choice.”
Morris was on vacation and could not be reached for comment this week.
Campo said the decision for her came down to Hughes and Cisneros — Hughes because of her education and emphasis on community policing and Cisneros for his experience and his connection to the West Side.
The focus on community policing seems to be what won the day for Hughes. Though she’s been in law enforcement for only 10 years, she has helped increase the connection between local law enforcement and the community in both Riverbank and Salida.
“I think her ability to connect with the community and to listen to the community’s concerns and act upon direction from the community and the city council will make her an excellent police leader,” Sheriff Adam Christianson said.
Hughes emphasized the importance of neighborhood watch throughout the interview process, she said, and she stressed being proactive in bringing neighborhoods together to be the police force’s eyes in the community.
“We’re doing that in Riverbank, and it’s proven to be very beneficial to us,” said Hughes, who also wants to use bicycle cops at local school sites.
Hughes said her time as a family crimes detective, in which she focused specifically on crimes against youth and the elderly, only reinforced her belief that community involvement is a critical aspect of successful policing.
“Awareness is very important among our youth,” Hughes said. “For me, it was an eye-opener that we really need to get out and educate teachers and parents about awareness.”
Hughes said being named Patterson’s first female police chief was an honor and said her education has played a major role in making her one of the state’s youngest chiefs. She earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from California State University, Long Beach, and a master’s in business from San Diego-based National University.
“Tori has risen through the ranks very rapidly because of her skill, expertise and sheer determination in serving the community,” Christianson said. “It’s an outstanding achievement.”
Hughes makes no secret of her ambition. She hopes to someday become the first female sheriff in Stanislaus County, which means her time in Patterson could wind up being much shorter than Spencer’s 27 years.
But Campo said Hughes has a chance to make a lasting impact on Patterson even if she only stays for a short time.
“If she can establish some kind of change here, then the expectations for the next chief are already at that level,” Campo said. “Hopefully she entices good, up-and-coming deputies to want to vie for her position.”
Hughes, who will continue to live in Riverbank, said what she accomplishes here will be more important than how long she stays.
“Whether I’m there a year or five years, I’m really active in what I do, and I take great pride in really having that bond with community,” Hughes said. “I’ve seen the positive effects of community policing.”
• Contact James Leonard at 892-6187 or email@example.com.