New chief looks to future

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LAFD> Sgambellone embraces the community

By Tris DeRoma

It’s been a whirlwind two months for Los Alamos Police Chief Dino Sgambellone. Ever since he accepted the job as police chief, the Mansfield, Ohio, native has been learning the ropes at the LAPD, while getting to know his new community at the same time.
Though his family is far away in Ohio and won’t be able to join him until next month, Sgambellone said he’s adjusting as best he can to his new surroundings and is doing pretty good navigating the learning curve of his new job, familiarizing himself with the department’s budget and procedures while at the same time getting to know his staff and fellow police officers.
“Anytime you transition to a new opportunity, there’s always challenges,” he said. “I think things are compounded when the move is 1,500 miles away. There’s been some delay in transition for my family, for example.” He added that his family should be coming out soon, in time for his children to start the next semester of school. He has a daughter who’s in the fifth grade and son, who is a junior in high school.
“The decision to come here is reinforced every time I meet someone new in the community,” he said, adding that he is very impressed with department and the relations it has to LANL and to the community at large.
“I look to build upon those relationships and continue to be a good community partner,” he said.
As far as community relations go, Sgambellone added that he sees a correlation between his former job as chief of the Mansfield Ohio Police Department and his present job as chief of the Los Alamos Police Department.
“At my old department we were also heavily invested in community programming, particularly youth programming,” he said. “It’s something I believe in, youth programming continues to pay dividends well into the future and I would like to sustain any current youth programming we have and possibly look to other programming.”
As for making changes within the department, Sgambellone said there’s plenty of time for that when the time is right.
“I want to make sure the timing is right when it comes to making those types of decisions,” he said. “I encourage a collaborative approach; I’ve been obtaining a lot of feedback within the department, personally sitting down with each employee, having a discussion with them on what they don’t like and what they like about the department.” He added once he has the information he needs, he plans to take guidance from County Administrator Harry Burgess and County Council on where to go from there.
“As we work through the budget process I will put it all together,” he said. “What that’s going to ultimately look like, I don’t know, but I do believe there are some opportunities for some different ways of doing things.”
Before Sgambellone arrived, the Los Alamos Police Department had experienced some growing pains within the past year, first with the retirement of LAPD Chief Wayne Torpy followed by a phase of alleged infighting and an incident that resulted in the termination of Commander Randy Foster and disciplinary actions against others. In the interim, Emergency Operations Coordinator Phil Taylor took over as chief until Sgambellone was sworn in.
Sgambellone said what his staff seems to want most of all these days is a clear path to follow.
“I think Phil did an outstanding job in the interim, but I think everybody knew that he was temporary, and I think that they were focusing on getting somebody in here and simply moving forward in a positive direction.”
As for the lawsuit, which involved Officer Brian Schamber as plaintiff and Foster as a defendant, Sgambellone said he really wasn’t involved in all of that, even after he was sworn in as chief a month ago. He said he’d rather focus on the future at this point.
“I prefer not to dwell on those things that have happened before I got here, I’d rather move forward,” he said.