As a high schooler in Cupertino, David Spiller and his good friend Mark Stall fantasized about being cops. They were justice-minded kids who thought about all the good they could do.
As expected, they took parallel paths, with Spiller ending up at the San Diego Police Department while Stall settled in Los Angeles County before traveling to Boise.
Then, in 1997, Stall was shot and killed during a high-risk traffic stop.
Spiller, who began his job as Pleasanton's chief of police on Monday after nine years in the department, thinks of his friend often, especially now that he's in the top job.
"I've dedicated a lot of work over the years to his memory," Spiller said.
Spiller, 43, had been serving as interim chief along with another captain since November, when Chief Michael Fraser retired. He was chosen out of 30 applicants.
Spiller went home with champagne and flowers the day he found out he'd be taking the chief job for good. His wife, Kathleen, was elated, he said.
"She puts up with a lot — she deserved that," he said. Spiller and his wife have a 3-year-old daughter.
As chief, Spiller said he wants to continue the tradition of engaging with residents and staying connected. He said the department has always prided itself on its relationship with the community, doing things like hosting citizens' police academies and events.
The new chief said the department, which has 87 sworn personnel at the moment, is being asked to watch its budget in these tough economic times along with departments throughout the region.
"But we shouldn't be fearful — we will get through this time; we'll get there," he said.
Instead of layoffs, Spiller said the department has been able to save money by not filling spots left empty by transfers and retirees while still making sure services don't suffer.
During the next five years, Spiller said the challenge will be developing a younger command staff, keeping them connected and cohesive, because the people currently serving in those positions won't be around forever.
He also said that though Pleasanton is a safe city, there are still crimes being committed — mostly property crimes like burglary — and people need to remain alert.
"This is why it's important that the community partners with us," he said. "And remember that the men and women who work in this department are professional. They care," he said. "We should always remember that we are subordinate to the community and we need to work on maintaining that trust."
After San Diego, Spiller moved to the Mountain View Police Department and then to Pleasanton in 2002 where he eventually became a captain in the investigations and support services division.
Spiller, who will make $184,000 a year, has a bachelor's degree from the University of San Francisco and a master's degree from Saint Mary's College in Moraga. He is also a graduate of the California Command College and the Senior Management Institute for Police at Harvard.
He is the sixth police chief since Pleasanton was incorporated.