SANTA PAULA, Calif. -- The first week is in the books for Santa Paula’s new police chief, but it comes with some scrutiny because of accusations from a previous job.
Travis Walker wrapped up his first week as Santa Paula Police Chief on Friday.
“It is always an honor to be able to serve a community in any capacity,” said Walker. “The same way you are tasked with providing for your family, now I have to provide for an entire community that now becomes my family.”
Walker says it was a busy first week getting to know the city and his staff, but it hasn’t been a warm welcome from everyone in the community. Protests and petitions were launched after news surfaced that he'd been accused of sexual assault in a previous job.
“There was a lawsuit by an employee who was about to face some of her own disciplinary hearings and filed a suit,” said Daniel Singer, who is the Santa Paula City Manager. “She accused the city and Mr. Walker of a number of things.”
Back in 2019 Walker was placed on administrative leave after a Cathedral City Police Department Dispatcher said Walker sexually assaulted her. According to our sister station, KESQ in Palm Springs, there were other allegations including emotional distress and battery, but the District Attorney chose not to file charges.
“He has never been charged with anything,” said Singer. “That prompted us to do a very thorough background investigation, and reference check to make sure that I personally felt comfortable. Accusations in today's world seem to equal guilty and I would just like to encourage the public to give him a chance, and that accusations don’t always mean that someone is guilty.”
But those allegations still follow him.
“Again allegations are allegations,” said Walker. “They have been investigated, and if I had committed the acts that I was accused of I wouldn’t be sitting here today.”
Walker hopes people can look past it and instead focus on the 20 years of experience he brings to the job. His main focus now: building a better relationship with the community.
“We can’t effectively police the community if the community doesn’t want us policing them,” said Walker. “So we have to build a partnership between the community and the department. I think it is time for the same people that want equity and fairness from the police department, I think I am afforded the same from them.”