Menlo Park Police Chief Robert Jonsen has been on the job for about six months now. “I feel like I’m home, even though I didn’t grow up here,” he says.
Bob, as he’s known, spent 27 years with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, most recently as captain of the Lancaster station. “My personality is more suited to this smaller environment,” he says, although he credits his former department with the training he’s received. “I really feel at peace. And the transition has been extremely smooth, although a bit less so for my wife, who grew in Southern California. I give her a lot of credit for being willing to leave the area where our children and grandchildren live.”
The Chief says that the educational level of people in Menlo Park was one of the reasons that prompted him to apply for the position. “This area is known for innovation and being forward thinking,” he says. “People are willing to try new things. And that’s important because law enforcement is changing. I believe we can become more efficient through the use of social media and technology.”
Given that focus, one of Bob’s first initiatives was the formation of an Advisory Group, which had its first meeting at the end of July and will get together monthly going forward. He set it up to “have an unfiltered dialogue with people in the community.”
“I didn’t do any direct recruiting for this group,” he says. “Instead we put the word out that we were accepting applications. The amazing thing is that we have representative from each of Menlo Park’s 20 different neighborhoods.”
Taking the MPPC Chief’s position is a homecoming of sorts for Bob, who grew up in Marin County. His father was a police officer in San Francisco who transferred to the City’s fire department. Bob left home to attend college in Southern California and never thought he’d stay there nor did he think he’d have a law enforcement career.
“But I had two buddies who were with the Sheriff’s department, and they urged me to apply,” he says. “Over the years, my father would send me articles about retiring Chief’s with a note that maybe I should look into applying,” he says. “And this time, the timing was right!”
Photo of Menlo Park Police Chief Robert Jonsen by Scott R. Kline
Photo of Advisory Group supplied by Menlo Park Police Department. Pictured left to right: Chief Bob Jonsen, Rose Bickerstaff, Ray Basso, John Preyer, Jason Pfannenstiel, Margaret Munzig, John Lindgren, Hamilton Mixon, Peter Brown, Jack Nelson, Steve Taffee, Dan Burke, Vincent Bressler, Brigid VanRandall, Commander Dave Bertini. Other members who are not in the picture include Fran Dehn, Besty Barth, Elizabeth Houck, Katherine Glass, Keeley Vega, Mary Kenney, and Ryan Williams