Morro Bay has a new police chief, as the soon-to-be-departing city manager has hired the former police commander to be the new full time police chief.
City Manager Scott Collins announced Feb. 16 that he had appointed Interim Chief Amy Watkins to replace retired Police Chief Jody Cox. Chief Watkins had been the department’s commander since coming to Morro Bay from Visalia in 2019. She’d been the interim chief since Cox’ retirement at the end of December.
Collins’ announcement said Watkins “Helped lead the Department through an expansion of programs connecting the department and the community, including launching the Citizen’s Academy, Police Chief’s Advisory Board, and mobile phone app [Morro Bay Police Department], among many other initiatives.”
He added, “Chief Watkins has helped train new police officers and sergeants within the department and served on the City emergency team to help aide the City and community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. She also led the department in its response to the recent storm surge emergency in January.”
Chief Watkins had been with the Visalia P.D. for some 20 years before being hired by Cox as second in command.
City Manager Collins said, “I appointed her to the interim role in December after conducting surveys of the Morro Bay Police team and the community. Survey results demonstrated resounding support for the current direction of the police department.” Also, many respondents to an online survey Collins conducted in the search for a new chief, said the City should look within for its next chief of police.
She did well in her short time as interim, including managing police responses during the big storm of Jan. 8-9.
“Amy has performed exceptionally well in the interim role,” Collins said, “and she was recently vetted by a panel of current police chiefs in our county and a panel of Morro Bay community members. There was unanimous support from the panels for Watkins to be appointed to the chief role.
“She is ready to lead the team of talented and dedicated law enforcement and administrative personnel of the police department into the future.”
In accepting the job, Chief Watkins said, “I am honored for the opportunity to serve the dedicated men and women of the Morro Bay Police Department. I am excited to continue to build strong relationships with the community as your police chief.”
Chief Watkins becomes just the second woman police chief in the town’s history and is the ninth police chief (including three interim chiefs) since 2000. She is also the second female police chief named “Amy.”
The swearing-in ceremony for Chief Watkins is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 24 at 10 a.m. at the Morro Bay Vet’s Hall. Members of the public are welcomed to attend.
Meanwhile, Collins himself is slated to leave the City in March and become the executive director for the Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo (HASLO).