Following a five-month search, the Morgan Hill Police Department reached outside the community to hire its newest captain: veteran San Bernardino Police Sgt. Emil Kokesh.
Kokesh began his new position in Morgan Hill Dec. 4. He is a 27-year veteran of a police department in southern California that is more than four times the size of Morgan Hill’s force.
Kokesh’s most recent assignment in San Bernardino, located about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, was as sergeant overseeing the homicide unit. While in San Bernardino, Kokesh also led the department’s regional auto theft task force and served as an acting lieutenant. He was a first responder to the December 2015 terrorist shooting at the Inland Regional Center, in which 14 people were killed and 22 others injured.
Kokesh comes to Morgan Hill with high praise from both his former and new employers.
“He’s always been a rock solid cop, he is respected by his peers and his leadership,” said San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan, who has worked with Kokesh since they joined the department more than 27 years ago. “He’s got a career to be proud of here, and a great opportunity in what he’s chasing up there in Morgan Hill.”
Kokesh’s hiring in Morgan Hill culminates a statewide recruitment effort led by consultant Teri Black of Teri Black and Company. The city council hired Black to search for candidates and recruit a new captain shortly after longtime Morgan Hill Police Capt. Jerry Neumayer retired in June, after serving MHPD for 20 years. During the recruitment, three veteran MHPD sergeants—Mario Ramirez, Carson Thomas and Carlos Guerrero—applied for the captain’s position.
The consultant and MHPD Chief David Swing interviewed a total of six candidates for the captain’s position before offering the job to Kokesh.
Kokesh will be part of Swing’s command staff, joining Support Services Manager Patti Yinger and Capt. Shane Palsgrove. The new captain will lead MHPD’s Special Operations Division which includes investigations, internal affairs, school resource programs and the office of emergency services.
The process to fill Neumayer’s former captain’s position included interviews with two panels, Swing said. Some of those who recommended hiring Kokesh praised his “ability to build consensus…his humility as a leader, the depth of his experience and confidence as a leader,” Swing said.
“For me personally…it was his ability to build strong teams, and to inspire others to do more than they previously thought they could,” Swing added.
Kokesh comes to Morgan Hill from a department with an annual budget of about $81 million—compared to about $17 million for MHPD. San Bernardino PD employs about 450 full-time staff (including dispatch and police support staff), while MHPD employs about 63 people. The City of San Bernardino’s population is about 209,000, compared to less than 45,000 for Morgan Hill.
Kokesh’s background in a larger city with “more entrenched crime problems” will be a significant plus for MHPD, Swing said. “He’ll bring that experience to Morgan Hill to strengthen many of the already successful programs we have, and make them even more successful,” Swing said. “He will bring those ideas and experience, and see what works for us and see what is applicable.”
Violent crime in particular is a bigger problem in San Bernardino than it is in Morgan Hill, for example. In 2016, 62 homicides were reported in San Bernardino, according to the FBI. Zero murders were reported in Morgan Hill that year—and that number varies little in other recent years.
The new captain’s experience responding to and helping to investigate the Dec. 2, 2015 mass shooting at the San Bernardino Inland Regional Center—the largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001—is also unique to Morgan Hill. Even though these types of incidents are uncommon and hopefully will not occur in Morgan Hill, Swing said Kokesh’s experience with such a “major critical incident” will bring knowledge of how to efficiently collaborate with other law enforcement and emergency medical agencies if needed.
Kokesh said in a statement, “I am incredibly grateful to be joining the Morgan Hill team and truly honored to have the opportunity to serve alongside the men and women of the Morgan Hill Police Department.”
MHPD staff did not immediately know what Kokesh’s salary is, but the city’s website says a first-year police captain in Morgan Hill earns about $11,000 per month—or about $132,000 per year.
MHPD is authorized for a total of 41 sworn officer positions as of July 1, 2019.