Reedley Police Chief retires following investigation

FRESNO, Calif.

Steve Wright has served as Reedley's police chief for the past three years. He was put on paid administrative leave back in April, pending an unknown investigation.

His attorney tells Action News the investigation had nothing to do with Wright's decision to leave the department. And while his retirement doesn't go into effect for two weeks, the city has already appointed an interim chief.

During a swearing-in ceremony at Reedley City Hall Monday, the police department added three new officers to its staff. A state grant made the new hires possible.

Lieutenant Joe Garza is now in charge of 29 officers. He was named acting chief back in April and will serve as interim chief starting, October first. His goal, he says, "To get the morale to where it needs to be, to where that everybody can function as a team."

Garza says the department has dealt with a series of challenges in a short period of time.

In February of 2010, Officer Javier Bejar died in the line of duty from injuries he received during a shootout in Minkler. Then, on April 29th of this year, the city council placed Chief Steve Wright on paid administrative leave, pending some sort of investigation.

City manager, Nicole Zieba praised Wright for his service, but could not comment directly on the investigation. Nicole Zieba said, "The city did reach a settlement agreement with Mr. Wright and his attorney and through that settlement agreement, we've ceased investigation and in fact, he will be retiring on the 30th and we wish him the best in the future."

As for Wright, his attorney released a statement on his behalf to Action News, saying, "Chief Wright is experiencing, and has been dealing with for some time, a severe illness in his immediate family. Rather than leave the police department wondering, on literally a week-to-week basis, when he would be returning, Chief Wright decided to retire."

The city manager says at this point, she is still trying to decide whether to launch a national search for Wright's permanent replacement. Wright's attorney says, he plans to teach and work as a consultant.

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