Cedric Crook, a 25-year local law enforcement veteran, is the new Ukiah Police Chief.
The announcement Friday ended months of speculation about who would lead a department struggling with internal turmoil and external scrutiny since the abrupt firing in June 2022 of former Police Chief Noble Waidelich.
Crook has been serving as interim police chief since Waidelich’s ouster. He emerged as one of three finalists the city considered for the top job. It pays about $325,000 a year in salary and benefits.
“I am honored,” said Crook about his appointment as Police Chief.
Crook said Friday that he will sit down for interviews and talk about his intentions as Police Chief once things “settle down.”
Crook said in a prepared statement that “Over the course of my career, the role of police officers has evolved, and I am committed to leading the transformation of the Ukiah Police Department to a more community-oriented department.”
Crook is a law enforcement officer with deep roots in Mendocino County. He is a lifelong resident who comes from long established families who have included teachers and accountants.
Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall said he’s known Crook for two decades. “He is extremely intelligent, and I know he can get the job done. I look forward to working with Cedric.”
Crook’s appointment ends weeks of speculation after the public learned earlier this year that he was among three finalists for the city job. The other two candidates were a longtime Mendocino County sheriff’s captain, and a law enforcement official from Yolo County.
Multiple candidates were vetted and interviewed during the city’s months-long recruitment effort to replace Waidelich, a local officer who rose through department ranks only to be suddenly fired in mid-June 2022 following the lodging of a sexual complaint against him by a woman well known in local law enforcement circles. Waidelich allegedly went to her home while on duty and in his police chief’s uniform and demanded oral sex.
Waidelich’s firing was the latest in a string of high profile scandals to roil the Ukiah department, a law enforcement agency that once carried a sterling reputation. In the past decade, the department has been beset by allegations of police misconduct.
Former Ukiah Police Sgt. Kevin Murray was accused of sexually assaulting a police trainee, and later of beating a Ukiah man so severely that the City of Ukiah settled a lawsuit with his victim for $1.1 million. Murray later was criminally accused of forcing his way into a Ukiah motel room in November 2020 where he sexually accosted a Sacramento woman. After reading of that incident, another woman — a friend of a former Murray wife — accused him years earlier of forcing her into twice performing oral sex on him.
Murray was fired from the department after being arrested in connection with the Ukiah motel case. But he escaped serious criminal punishment when District Attorney David Eyster’s office last year unexpectedly dropped three felony sex-related charges against the rogue cop. Murray was placed on a year’s probation instead, after entering guilty pleas in July 2022 to lesser charges.
Murray and the City still face civil lawsuits stemming from his past actions.
The department was also the subject of controversy by the disclosure of videos that showed a squad of police officers assaulting a naked mentally ill man, which ended up costing the city $211,000 to settle his family’s civil lawsuit.
District Attorney Eyster continues to refuse to publicly discuss his reasons behind dropping the sex-related charges against Murray, or address the status of the Waidelich case months after the results of an outside investigation by Sonoma County authorities were turned over to him.
Eyster also refuses to talk about police misconduct complaints lodged last Fall against a fired Willits Police lieutenant, who was accused of sexually abusing a local woman.
In his role as the county’s chief law enforcement officer, Eyster’s adamant refusal to publicly discuss high profile police misconduct allegations casts a long shadow over local law enforcement in general.
Friday’s announcement of Crook’s appointment as the new Ukiah Police Chief alluded to the public concern about local police misconduct issues.
Mayor Mari Rodin said about Crook in part, “He knows the department needs to rebuild trust in the community, and he is up to the task.”
Since June of last year Crook has focused on reestablishing the stability of his department, providing training emphasizing de-escalation techniques and working with individuals with mental illness, and enforcing strict accountability through the ranks, according to the city announcement.
City Manager Sage Sangiacomo said that after the city’s “thorough vetting process, it became resoundingly clear that Cedric Crook knows our community, is committed to our community, and has the integrity needed to lead this department.”
Even though Crook rose to the top of the field of candidates, and despite his record of exemplary service within the department, city officials decided to take the extraordinary step of retaining an outside investigator to conduct an in-depth background check before making their final decision.
Mayor Rodin said that based on those results, and input from a citizens stakeholder group and a lengthy interview process with a city council ad hoc committee, “I am convinced that we made the right choice for our new chief.”
Rodin said Crook has the “highest ethical standards and will not be shy about enforcing those standards within the department.”
Crook, during his 25 years with the Ukiah department, has served as both patrol and administrative lieutenant, supervised the department’s detective division, was promoted to Captain and has received numerous achievement awards.
A graduate of Ukiah High School, Crook attended the University of Nevada at Reno, where he received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in Spanish.
During his career with the Ukiah department, Crook has witnessed some high-profile criminal cases and local disasters up close.
Crook rode in the ambulance in March 2003 that rushed now retired Ukiah Police Sgt. Marcus Young to a local hospital following a shootout with a violent felon in the parking lot of the local WalMart store. Young survived thanks to the help of a young police cadet who was on patrol with him, but the officer’s injuries eventually forced his retirement.