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It's official: Sarah Mooney will be the new chief of the West Palm Beach Police Department.
The West Palm Beach City Commission put its stamp on her selection on Monday night, making her just the second woman to achieve that rank in the department's history.
Mooney, who currently serves as assistant chief, vows she will be busy working hard for the people of West Palm Beach. WPTV was the first to sit down with the chief on Tuesday morning. She has spent her entire 22-year career at WPBPD, so she's no stranger to the city and the department she will now lead.
"I think there's lot of strategies nationwide that agencies are trying to undertake for the first time. I think a lot of those strategies are already employed at our department. So we've got to build on the good things that we're doing and make sure people are aware of what we're doing and what our processes are," she said.
With a masters in social work and years of experience as a hostage negotiator, Mooney brings new tools to the table as the new police chief.
"I have a very broad perspective on people in general. I have a tendency to try and figure out people's story: What do they need, where are they at in their day," she said. "You have to understand where people are coming from. You have to take the time to listen to them."
The city is hopeful Mooney's background will send the right message to all citizens, following a difficult year of officer involved shootings and police killings across the country.
One of her priorities is to keep her force motivated.
"It's very disheartening when the whole profession gets painted with the same brush for an error that somebody else might make," she said. "We like to have some open conversation within the agency to make sure that the guys don't get disheartened," she said.
Mooney plans to do this by expanding community policing and programs like Coffee With A Cop.
"We go out and we walk the community, we talk to people. It's about being involved in what's going on and listening to what the concerns are," she said. "I would love to expand our community outreach but in order to do that, I need to make sure I have our day to day operations covered."
"We have the ability to make some of those connections through the programs that we're working with, but those are the types of things that we need to get out and about and let people know what we're trying to do in order to try and make an impact," she said.
Having a good connection become the new police chief is good news for groups like Urban League, which works with the city and police department on a employment program that helps youth enhance their skills for the workforce.
"We've had a long history with [Mooney] and the city of West Palm Beach over the years and I think it's going to be a good thing for the city to show some continuity and to move forward in programming for kids," said Patrick Franklin, CEO of Urban League of PBC. "I'm really looking forward to working with her to engage at a higher level to make sure that we can mentor young men and ladies who are in urban communities."
Mooney is preparing for several retirements this year and adds that recruiting new officers will be a challenge.
"It fluctuates with the economy. There's certain up and down years with having more people interested in being officers. With recent trends in law enforcement nationwide, media coverage and interpretations of what officers should or shouldn't be doing -- you have a tendency for people decide they don't want to get in law enforcement. Who wants to be under the microscope all the time like that?"
But with booming business and population in West Palm Beach, the city is setting aside more money for the police department's budget for the upcoming year. Mooney hopes to recruit officers for the long run.
"My goal would be to have the people that are walking in the door today to have a 30 year career and be as happy about the job when they leave as they were when they got here," she said.
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Mooney will officially begin her new role as police chief in early February.
Scripps Only Content 2016