August marks Max Bosel’s first month as chief of the Mountain View Police Department. He replaces Scott Vermeer, who resigned in the spring to take a job in the private sector.
Bosel has been with the department for nearly 20 years – first as an officer, then as a captain – and has lived in Mountain View for nine years.
Diving into his new role as chief, the FBI National Academy graduate emphasized keeping the department on top of changing technology and addressed the effects of California’s prison realignment legislation.
With plenty on his plate, Bosel told the Town Crier, “I can’t say that my job is boring in any way.”
Q: What are your top priorities for the city of Mountain View?
Bosel: Safety is always a top priority, and historically we’ve done, I think, a pretty good job with reducing crime. … A lot of that is based not only on the work of police officers themselves, but on the police department’s work with the community. So one of my top priorities is to continue our collaborative style of reaching out and understanding the different issues with the different neighborhoods.
One of the other top priorities is internally here with the department itself and ensuring that we have the right training, right equipment, good leadership. … Chief Vermeer has done a tremendous job, and one of my priorities is to continue that and build on our strengths and continue to improve.
Q: What do you imagine your first six months on the job will entail?
Bosel: A lot of meetings. … It’s really an opportunity for me to meet with the officers, our record specialists, our dispatchers, our CSOs (community service officers) internally – find out from their perspective how things are going, how we do things well, what opportunities we have. And also meet with the community. I’ve already had meetings with our school district superintendents, members of the business community, neighborhood associations and individual stakeholders from the community to get a perspective on how they feel their police department is doing. And from there, at the end of that six-month period, it’s really coalescing that information and working with the staff … to develop … a roadmap for the future.
Q: What growing Silicon Valley crime trends have you noticed?
Bosel: Well, cybercrime is huge. … I think that (certain) types of crime have always existed, but the manner in which they’re committed is different. For example, 15 years ago you would see prostitution on the corner of El Camino (Real) and Escuela (Avenue). Physically – prostitutes walking the streets. Now you don’t see that, but we have something called the Internet that allows that type of crime. … Another example is fraud schemes, where you might have had someone walking up to an older person … and going face-to-face with them to try to do a fraud scheme. Now you have them phishing through the Internet and maybe using email to execute that same crime.
One of the other areas of prominent concern is not so much in the criminal element as it is in our safety aspect of traffic with pedestrians and bicycles. … The amount of traffic in Silicon Valley has increased tremendously, and what we’re seeing a lot of, too, is just the interaction among vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians and the consequences of what that means when accidents occur.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges facing Mountain View from a crime standpoint?
Bosel: One of the elements to really look at is the state realignment through AB 109 (California’s Assembly Bill that addresses overcrowded prisons by shifting incarceration responsibilities from state prisons to county jails). … I think the exciting possibility of that is the rehabilitation … (and) whether that works or not. The challenge for us locally is that you have people who are released under community supervision – being able to ensure that we can provide adequate protection in the event that the recidivism rate doesn’t reduce. … I’m not a researcher who can say what the causal effect of crime versus AB 109 is. … Anecdotally, we do see … our property crimes being steady or rising, and, at the same time, we see the effect of the AB 109 realignment. So that’s one of the challenges we face.
(Additionally), we have to constantly stay on top of changing technology. … Years ago, we didn’t have to worry about cellphone records and text messaging, and now that information is relied upon pretty heavily to allow us to solve cases and protect victims. The complexity of that of course is that we need to get search warrants, we need to get technology that allows us to retrieve the info, so the amount of time to do those cases is a lot more.
Q: How prevalent are gang issues in Mountain View?
Bosel: Not tremendously prevalent. We have had a much larger influence of gang activity in the past. However, we do still see gang activity, it’s still a concern, it still exists in the neighborhoods and in the schools. … We do have a very robust program internally. We have an officer assigned to gang suppression who works very closely with our school resource officers. We participate in a regional North County gang task force and we do a lot of outreach intervention with at-risk youth. Our Dreams & Futures program is a summer camp that identifies (young people) from our community that we’re able to put into a recreation and education program to talk about these issues and hopefully educate and steer them in the right direction.
Q: How does the department handle white-collar crime and identity theft?
Bosel: We have an investigator assigned internally to that, and we also participate in a regional task force that’s comprised of officers from a number of agencies including the District Attorney’s Office. We also have a good partnership with the Secret Service and the FBI, who are both tasked at a federal level to investigate those crimes that become more complex and involve more of an organized effort on the criminals’ behalf.
Q: What are some of the department’s strengths and weaknesses?
Bosel: Our strength is our people. We have extraordinarily dedicated individuals who work hard together, 24 hours a day, during holidays, rain or shine, sometimes in difficult and very dangerous situations. Right now, our challenges are our staffing levels. We’ve had extraordinary turnover, by virtue of a lot of different reasons. … Right now, my strong emphasis is doing interviews to hire new officers. The other challenge with that is finding exceptional candidates.
Q: In regard to response times, how does the MVPD compare to cities of similar size?
Bosel: We meet our targets generally, certainly for emergency calls. … We have seen an increase in the amount of time it takes us to respond to calls, and we believe that’s primarily related to the amount of traffic we’re seeing on our streets. … But we haven’t identified that as a serious issue or concern.
Q: How is the MVPD adapting to changes in the way the public receives information?
Bosel: I’ll highlight a very successful endeavor that we’re involved with, and that’s our social media campaign. … We’ve had a very robust effort in our strategy related to social media. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Google, Google Plus, we have a program that a lot of agencies use called Nixle that you can subscribe to and get (emergency or advisory) announcements on. We’re using text-tip technology so that people can provide anonymous information by texting, not just phoning. We’re doing a lot of outreach on the mobile platform and on the online platform. … But we also have to recognize that there may be people who aren’t comfortable or capable or have the ability to do that as well.
Q: What’s a specific accomplishment in your MVPD career that you consider to be most significant?
Bosel: We’re a very team-oriented profession, so when I say this is an accomplishment, I feel a part of it, but I can’t say that it’s my own personal victory. In 2008, we faced a tremendous challenge with a record number of seven (unrelated) homicides in a short amount of time, and we’ve solved all but one of those. … The unsolved homicide, which is still on the top of our minds, is the Jeff Johnson case, where (the Mountain View teenager) was murdered in a drug transaction.