Billy Green, a 19-year member of the department, has been promoted to Fontana police chief.
Green succeeds Bob Ramsey, who is moving into retirement after two years at the helm.
Green, 45, who grew up in nearby Ontario, is a Marine Corps veteran. He has served in several progressively more advanced positions with the department, including detective, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, special weapons and tactics team commander, school district police chief and a member of the Inland Valley Special Weapons and Tactics Team.
“I am humbled to follow in the footsteps of the department’s previous chiefs and extremely grateful to my mentors for taking the time to teach me,” Green said in a prepared statement on May 8, the day he was sworn in. “Chief Ramsey is leaving the Fontana Police Department in an all-around great place and I am looking forward to building on the momentum he generated.”
Green is the tenth police chief in the department’s 66-year history. He follows in the footsteps of Henry Young, Joe Uhalley, Ben Abernathy, Ed Stout, Sam Scott, Frank Scialdone, Larry Clark, Rod Jones and Ramsey.
Young was chosen to serve as Fontana’s first police chief when the department came into existence with the 1952 incorporation of Fontana. Young was a policeman with the Upland Police Department, where he had been a protégé of Eugene Mueller, who had been Upland police chief prior to being elected San Bernardino County Sheriff in 1950. Young remained as Fontana police chief for 18 years, retiring in 1970.
Young was succeeded by Joe Uhalley, who remained as chief for eleven years and is remembered as a progressive department leader who modernized the department’s function.
Ben Abernathy succeeded Uhalley in 1981, and served as chief until 1988. Many of those who worked under Abernathy, including some of the chiefs who succeeded him, consider him to be the model of an outstanding police chief. “Ben in my opinion was the best chief the department ever had,” said Scialdone. “You would have had to work for Ben to understand this. His leadership was without question.” After retiring, Abernathy served four years on the Fontana City Council.
Ed Stout succeeded Abernathy, serving from 1989 to 1993. He oversaw the department during a significant downsizing due to financial issues the city was confronted with at the time.
Sam Scott, who had come into law enforcement through his service as a military policeman during the Viet Nam War, thereafter went to work for Fontana PD and achieved the rank of lieutenant under Abernathy and captain under Stout. He was the department’s fifth chief, serving from 1994 to 1999.
Scott was followed by Scialdone, who was chief from 1999 to 2004; Clark, who was chief from 2004 to 2007; Jones, who was chief from 2008 to 2016; followed by Ramsey.
Generally, with slight deviation, the tenures of Fontana’s police chiefs, as with the chiefs of many other police departments, have grown progressively shorter over the years.
Scialdone, who after retiring served on the Fontana City Council and then a stint as mayor, offered his theory as to why modern police chiefs remain in the position for fewer years than their predecessors.
“There are several reasons, in my opinion,” said Scialdone. “First is how long it takes someone to rise to the rank of chief, usually 25 years or more. What this means is by the time they reach the chief level they are already close to retirement. Secondly, being a chief is a hard and time-consuming job if done right. My average work week was 60-plus hours. You are always on call. And when the phone rings in the middle of the night, it is never good news. Third, it is harder today to be a chief than when I was a chief. You are always under the microscope. Everyone thinks they can do a better job than you. They think they know better than you how to run your department and about use of force. Fourth is the retirement issue. Being able to retire at 90 percent of your top pay after 30 years is attractive. At some point the chief begins losing money by continuing to work. For example, in Fontana the sworn personnel pay 10.75 percent of their salary into retirement. So if a chief continues to work after reaching the level where he will be receiving 90 percent of his salary, he is actually losing 0.75 percent of income. In other words, he is paying the city to work for it. Fifth and last is the political atmosphere. Both elected officials and police officer associations [i.e., police officer unions] can take a chief out without cause. So if you become a chief prior to age 50 and lose your job, you have no income until you reach age 50, or you have to take a significant cut in your retirement.”