When Rikki Goede assumed her duties as Piedmont's police chief on Jan. 22, she moved from the Bay Area's largest city, San Jose, where she was assistant chief, to one of the region's smallest incorporated communities.
Did the transition posed a challenge?
"It is different, but the same," she said in an interview at her office Wednesday. "At the end of the day, people live in a city and want to feel safe in the city."
The fundamentals of policing that seek to assure public safety are the same, no matter the size of the population being served, she said. She said her approach includes three key components:
- a good, well-staffed police department
- technology, which can be a "force multiplier"
- an engaged community working with police
Among her top priorities in Piedmont, she said, are to restore the department to full staffing and to strengthen the neighborhood watch program.
"It'd be my goal to have every neighborhood have a strong neighborhood watch," she said.
She said she believes the sharp drop in burglaries in February – following several months of increases in burglaries – can be attributed in large part to heightened community alertness and willingness to contact police about anything suspicious.
Rochelle "Rikki" Goede (pronounced GO-dee) was chosen unanimously as the new chief by the Piedmont City Council from a field of 51 candidates.
Goede, 50, served 16 years in San Jose, where she rose through the ranks from officer to assistant chief. Before that, she served 10 years with the police department in the state's second largest city, San Diego.
Any surprises in her work at Piedmont so far?
"I didn't expect to have two home invasions within 30 minutes on the day before I was sworn in," she said. Those two robberies in the early morning hours of Jan. 21 galvanized community concern and helped prompt a report on crime-fighting strategies that Goede prespared for the Feb. 4 City Council meeting.
The culprits in those cases haven't been caught. Goede said her department believes they're responsible for similar crimes in Oakland and that Piedmont and Oakland are working together to track them down.
Asked what inspired her to go into police work, she said she had originally wanted to become a sports writer, which would have combined her love of journalism and sports. She was the editor of her high school paper and sports editor of the paper at Augustana College, where she majored in journalism with a minor in criminal justice.
But it was difficult for women to break into sports writing at that time, so she went with her second preference, the law, she said. She didn't want to be a lawyer, and being inspired by a college mentor who was a police officer, she picked police work.
"I have become absolutely engaged in my career and am grateful I picked this profession," she said.
And, as anyone who visits her office can tell, she also retained her love of sports, and her undying loyalty to her favorite team.
At her right hand on her desk is a red Kansas City Chiefs mug. When the conversation turned to her team, she pointed to one of the photos on the wall behind her desk.
"This is my favorite," she said, indicating one showing star running back Marcus Allen scoring for the Chiefs against the Oakland Raiders. The photo has been autographed by Allen.
Her loyalty came naturally. "I am from the Kansas City area," she said. She grew up in the town of Lawson. "It had 1,034 people when I grew up," she said.
What does she enjoy doing when she's not at work?
"Anything outdoors," she said. "I love to bike. I camp. I like to ski."
"I collect wine – I say you could put what I know about wine on a postage stamp," she said. "I love to cook and entertain. Cooking is a big stress-reliever for me."