Police chief

Robert Ratcliffe, third from left, is honored for his retirement at an August 2014 Fontana City Council meeting.

A respected former International Association of Chiefs of Police Officer of the Year in Fontana has been approached to fill in as the latest interim police chief for the city of Banning.

Robert Ratcliffe, who retired in 2014 from Fontana Police Department at the rank of lieutenant, was invited to handle duties previously assigned to the lastest interim chief appointee Robert Fisher.

However, Banning’s city council decided at its July 10 meeting to hold off on approving a contract, after Mayor George Moyer let it be known that the city is weeks shy of hiring a permanent city manager — and that person should have a say in who they work with as the next interim or full-time police chief.

Interim chief Fisher was appointed on April 10 after the March 13 resignation of former chief Alex Diaz.

Since Diaz’s departure, a handful of officers and employees have left the department, and the ranking officer Capt. Phil Holder “went on leave,” according to the city.

Lt. Vincent Avila has stepped up to help Fisher fill in some of the duties.

“Based on the staffing deficiency coupled with his specialized skills and experience … Robert Ratcliffe is recommended to serve as interim police chief, so that he can work with Lieutenants Fisher and Avila — during this period of absence of a Captain — so the department has more administrative level staffing during recruitment” of a permanent police chief, city documents state.

The city council’s agenda did not indicate who, if any, other candidates had been proposed for appointment as interim chief.

Ratcliffe told council that he had not intended to come out of retirement to work full-time, but had been invited by a private investigators firm he works for to consider the opportunity to apply his expertise as a former school district police chief to work with the two lieutenants currently running Banning’s Police Department.

Ratcliffe retired after 30 years as an officer, having served 22 of them with Fontana Police Department.

He was considered an expert on street gangs, having taught courses on the subject for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Academy.

He is credited with having developed a software program that enhanced and streamlined Police Department training requests, and wrote the manual for the Fontana Police Bicycle Patrol Officers Program.

He is a recipient of the Medal of Valor, received while he was a corporal in the gang unit at Fontana.

Ratcliffe would have taken over the administrative duties that are being handled by Fisher, who, when he returns to his lieutenant’s position, will resume a salary of $1,18.55 every two weeks.

Fisher is currently paid $5,038.55 on a bi-weekly basis; Ratcliffe’s $85.2068 per hour salary would be closer to $6,816.54 on a bi-weekly basis, without benefits.

Though Fisher has been with the department since 1994, he had only recently been promoted to lieutenant in the past year.

Capt. Holder began his career in Banning a year later and reached the rank of lieutenant in 2005 and promoted to captain in 2016; he holds a master’s degree and is an alumnus of the elite FBI National Academy.

Lt. Ratcliffe reached his rank in 2008, four years after being promoted as sergeant in Fontana.

Per the city’s agreement, Ratcliffe’s temporary employment would have ended if a permanent chief is hired, or if he reaches a threshold of 960 hours with the city within the fiscal year.

Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at dheiss@recordgazette.net , or by calling (951) 849-4586 x114.

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Staff Writer

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