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New Santa Paula police chief was previously accused of sexual harassment

Travis Walker has been hired as the new police chief of Santa Paula
KESQ/City of Santa Paula
Travis Walker has been hired as the new police chief of Santa Paula

SANTA PAULA, Calif. - The City of Santa Paula has hired a new police chief. Travis Walker will take over as the city's chief of police on Feb. 1.

Walker has several years of experience as a chief of police, but he brings with him some accusations of malfeasance.

Walker began his career with the San Bernardino Police Department where he worked a variety of assignments including patrol, narcotics, gangs and various detective and managerial roles throughout his nearly 20-year career. He also served as the Tactical Commander during the 2015 San Bernardino terror attack.

He joined the Cathedral City Police Department to serve as deputy chief in Sept. 2016 and was promoted to Chief in 2017. But it was in May 2019, when trouble began and serious accusations were made. Walker was placed on administrative leave after a Cathedral City Police Department Dispatcher alleged that Walker sexually assaulted her at the Miramonte Resort in Indian Wells.

The dispatcher, identified as Loran Candelas, reported the allegations to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department in April 2019 and the Cathedral City Human Relations Department in May 2019, according to our sister station KESQ.

A complaint filed further detailed Candelas' allegations, which included sexual harassment, sex-based discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination, violation of the Ralph Act, intentional infliction of emotional distress and battery.

The Sheriff's Department investigated the allegations and sent the case to the Riverside County District Attorney's Office. In August 2019, the DA's office announced they had chosen not to file charges.

Candelas filed a lawsuit against Walker and Cathedral City in July 2019. The judge would go on to dismiss the suit a year later, however, that came a few months after Candelas agreed to a $500,000 settlement with the city.

The city conducted an internal investigation into the accusations, however, that was stopped when Walker and the city mutually agreed on a "separation of employment" in November 2019.

In the agreement, Walker made no admission of liability.

"The Plaintiff understands and agrees that by entering into this Agreement, the Defendants do NOT admit any liability on their part, and that this settlement is the compromise of doubtful and disputed claims and is made solely to avoid the cost of continued litigation," reads the settlement agreement, which was signed in April 2020.

Chris Parman, Cathedral City Communications and Events Manager, later confirmed that Candelas resigned from her position and no longer works for the city.

Walker now takes over for Santa Paula's previous police chief Steve McLean who left to a new city after seven years in the position. The divorce between Santa Paula and McLean was also a tumultuous one, according to the Ventura County Star.

Santa Paula had been without a permanent police chief since McLean's resignation in 2019. On Wednesday, Santa Paula city officials announced Walker's hiring.

“As this recruitment process progressed, it was apparent that we had several well-qualified and experienced finalists who appeared capable of performing this all-important job, making this a very challenging decision,” said Dan Singer, Santa Paula City Manager. “However, we are thrilled to welcome Chief Walker into the Santa Paula family and look forward to leveraging his experience and insights from other communities to further elevate and modernize the City’s community-centric approach to policing.”

It is unclear if city officials were made aware of these previous accusations or if they were taken into consideration when Walker was hired.

We will continue to update this story as we learn more.

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KESQ is the sister station of NewsChannel 3-12 located in Thousand Palms, Calif.

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