New Heber City police chief brings experience from fast-growing city in central California
Parker Sever is a man of many titles — husband, father, law enforcement officer, car restorationist, cancer-survivor, woodworker and, pending certification, the soon-to-be police chief of Heber City.
He was unanimously chosen for the position by the Heber City Council last week, after the mayor brought two candidates to the group for possible approval.
Sever comes with over eight years of experience as chief of police in Hanford, California, and 27 total years of experience in law enforcement. His experience in that community was a deciding factor for Councilor Rachel Kahler, who spoke to The Park Record about her decision.
“He watched that community basically over those years grow from a population of 30,000 to 60,000, and he was able to grow his department to meet the challenges of the growing community,” she said. “I personally felt like it was important to bring someone in that had that kind of experience, that knew how to grow officers with the right training.”
Kahler said before Sever and current Heber City Police Lt. Branden Russell were brought to the council as the two options for future chief, Mayor Heidi Franco embarked on national search and a rigorous vetting process to determine who would be right for the position.
“There were 48 candidates initially that applied. Only 11 of those candidates completed the 40-page application,” Kahler said. “There was an intense background check. Only four of those 11 were then invited to participate in an interview with a panel.”
Once two more candidates were taken out of the running, Kahler said that — at least for her — it came down to experience.
Russell, she explained, has worked as a law enforcement officer for 13 years in Heber City but has not had the same leadership experience as Sever.
“Branden Russell, I believe, will become a great future chief under the stewardship of Chief Sever,” she said.
Asked his proudest accomplishments in Hanford, Sever was quick to bring up how his job as police chief required him to also take up a mantle as a quasi-construction manager to update his department’s building in Hanford.
“Our building itself was pretty dilapidated when I took over,” he said. “I purchased another building, I tore down a building, and I remodeled our main police department and our investigations and evidence divisions.”
Before he took on the project, he explained, evidence was kept in 14 locations and “looked like a hoarder’s paradise.”
“Now we do a much better job,” he said. “Everything’s in one room.”
Another thing he’s proud of is Hanford’s Police Activities League program.
“When we started, all we had was an Explorer program, which served about 30 kids,” he said. “They weren’t bad kids. … We put a lot of trust in them.” They were permitted to walk around the department unescorted and help with tasks such as towing vehicles.
In his time in Hanford, he helped expand an initiative to include a Junior Explorer program that about 150 kids participate in, some of whom he said could be considered “at risk.”
The department also established a Police Activities League boxing program with about 70 kids.
“Those are definitely the more on the at-risk level,” he said. “Those are our future citizens, and the more we can help them and make them productive members of society, the less crime that we’re going to have.”
Currently, officers in the department are working to establish a PAL mountain biking program and a PAL bass fishing program.
“It’s really the great officers I have that do the work,” Sever said. “I try to facilitate their good ideas, and I have some ideas.”
Though he is still working through the Utah’s POST certification tests, he will likely move to Heber City in the coming months. Along with a ’79 Corvette he restored, he plans to bring his attitude towards policing — hold people accountable, but do it in a compassionate way.
“You’ve got to hold people accountable for the small things, and although that can sound tough, when we hold people accountable at the lowest possible level, that is the best-case scenario for anybody, because their behavior isn’t allowed to continue to get worse until you have to arrest them and put them in jail,” he said.
He recalled a week he had a year or two ago when someone actually thanked him for their arrest.
“He goes, ‘Hey do you know who I am?'” Sever recalled. “He goes, ‘You arrested me for drugs back in the day,’ and he goes, ‘I want to let you know I hit rock bottom, I realized I need to change my life and I haven’t used since and I’m doing great.'”
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