Chief Kimberly Petersen knows a thing or two about Fremont PD. She started her career at the Agency in 1996 when the facility at 2000 Stevenson Blvd. was brand new and worked her way up the chain of command.
She’s seen firsthand what qualities make up the quintessential Fremont cop and the trajectory the Department has taken. Now she’s looking ahead to the future of FPD.
Read on to hear her story, vision for the Department, and how you just might fit into that picture.
Q: Of course, I have to ask how a Stanford grad in biology chooses a career in law enforcement.
I’ve always been an active person. It’s true that I majored in biology at Stanford with plans to go into some form of physical therapy. After graduation, I had a friend who was a Sergeant at the Santa Clara PD and took me on a ride-along. Throughout the experience, I kept thinking that this was a great job! The city essentially becomes your office and you get work together as a team; I was hooked!
Q: How did you end up at Fremont PD?
I started doing other ride-alongs at other agencies around the Bay that confirmed this was the career path for me. The job market was quite different back then. I ended up putting myself through the Academy like the vast majority of my colleagues at the time. A Fremont Recruitment Officer came down and hired me out of the Academy in 1996.
Q: One final question on your Stanford experience. Why the break before your junior year?
I needed money for tuition. My parents agreed to pay for my first two years at Stanford, and then I was on my own.
Q: That’s when you went to Japan to play professional soccer?
Exactly. I signed a contract to play in the inaugural season of the “J” League, Japan’s professional soccer league, and ended up playing two years of professional soccer. It worked out perfectly. I earned enough money for the rest of my schooling. I also took some language classes that counted toward my degree.
Q: Do you see a correlation between team sports and police work?
Definitely. I thrive in team environments. I’ve noticed that people who come from a sports background naturally fit into police work. They already know how to be part of the team.
Q: Many of the people reading this interview will be job candidates. You’ve mentioned teamwork as an important quality in Police Officers. What else?
We have rigorous standards. Our Officers must be grounded in strong ethics and morals. Those are non-negotiables. Another important quality that may not immediately come to a recruit’s mind is the importance of resiliency. In other words, the willingness to make and learn from mistakes while staying the course. The power of communications is often overlooked as well. It’s a people-oriented job. Officers are constantly interacting with the public, their colleagues, suspects, etc.
Q: What exactly do you mean, underestimating the power of communication skills?
I’m not just talking about the words you choose when diffusing a volatile situation. The ability to communicate well not only increases Officer safety and helps us solve crimes, but it is also how we engage with the Fremont community. At a time when there can be friction between the police and the public they serve, we have incredible support from the people of Fremont. How our Officers communicate in their day-to-day jobs has a massive impact on community perception. We interact with the public 24/7. Getting each interaction right goes a long way toward building trust.
Q: I have more questions about community support for later, but back to your journey. How has Fremont PD evolved since you joined in 1996?
We’ve always operated under what I like to call a culture of care. That hasn’t changed. What has developed over time is our underlying crime fighting strategy. In 2013, former Chief Richard Lucero introduced the concept of intelligence-led policing to our Department. We brought in the individual who literally wrote the book on intelligence-led policing, Jeremy Ratcliffe, to train the Department.
Q: Can you provide a few details behind intelligence-led policing?
It boils down to pretty simple concepts. We are all intelligence collectors who are constantly taking in vast amounts of information. Yet, for this information to be useful, you need to sift through it to pinpoint patterns, identify priorities, and then disseminate this information directly to our Officers on the ground. This allows us to attack problems from their root, rather than just relying on luck and grit.
Q: Do you believe in intelligence-led policing? Is this something that the Department will continue to invest in?
Absolutely! I’ll answer that question, but before I do, I want to make the point that we were one of the first Departments in the country to recognize that as society became more digital, we had to follow suit. At FPD, we embrace technology which underpins the concept that we think of today as intelligence-led policing.
Q: Can you provide an example?
Sure. The first social media platform to gain mass acceptance was Myspace, which was around 15 or so years ago. We understood even back then the ramifications of the platform on public safety and trained our Officers accordingly. We didn’t call it intelligence-led policing at the time, but it fits the broad concept of leveraging technology to help our Officers make educated decisions.
Q: How will you continue to invest in intelligence-led policing?
I’m glad you asked that question. We’re fortunate to be part of a City with a strong economic foundation which allows us to invest in technologies tied to intelligence-led policing. But I want to emphasize something often overlooked in this equation: training. Our training budget, excluding Academy, is $840,000. To put this into perspective, that translates to four times the amount of training allowance per officer annually when compared to much larger local agencies. Many departments ask their Officers to take personal time for training. Not only do we pay our Officers for time spent on career development, we’ll send them out of town and even out of state for training, taking care of the expenses. We want our Officers always pushing to learn more. That’s the core of intelligence-led policing.
Q: It seems like never-ending learning is part of the Department’s culture. How else would you describe the culture?
I’ve heard time and time again from Officers that they vividly remember how we treated them that very first day of recruitment, before we’ve even hired them. In the law enforcement recruitment process, it’s easy to feel like a number being herded through a series of tests and obstacles. At Fremont, we actively work to make a connection with each recruit and encourage them throughout the process. A prime example of this is allowing Fremont PD Officers administering the physical agility test to bring their kids.
Q: That must change the dynamic.
It brings an atmosphere of fun and positivity to a part of the recruitment process that can come across as daunting and cold.
Q: Any other thoughts on the Department’s culture?
Inclusivity is also a key part of our culture. As someone who doesn’t fit the traditional cop mold, I’ve always felt that I’ve been treated with the same respect and courtesy as anyone else in the Department. At the end of the day, that kind of attitude is the foundation for a diverse Department.
Q: Any thoughts on how to bring more women and greater ethnic diversity to the Department?
We need to break the stereotype that a Police Officer has to look a certain way or come from a particular background. People seeing someone that looks like them in law enforcement begins to change the perceptions that block diversity.
Q: I said we would come back to how the Fremont community supports the Police Department. Is there a way to quantify this support?
Absolutely. In the City’s 2018 community survey, three out of four of Fremont residents were satisfied with the police protection we provided. You just don’t see a number that high in other parts of the country or even the Bay Area. This trust allows our officers to do more.