Tempe named a new top cop Monday: Tom Ryff, a veteran of the city’s police force. Ryff takes over as police chief Jan. 1, replacing Ralph Tranter during a time of rapid change in Tempe.
Ryff has to hire several new officers — he’s not sure how many yet — to serve a growing community and to replace a large number of retiring cops.
He’ll also have to deal with the impacts of 30-story buildings, an even denser downtown and a new transit system, Metro light rail.
“It’s going to be very challenging to keep up with the growth of the community,” Ryff said moments after the announcement that he would be the new chief.
Ryff was the only applicant for the job. City Manager Will Manley, who under the city charter has sole authority to choose the chief, decided to look inside the department as part of a city practice of promoting from within.
Manley said Ryff impressed him and several panels of employees, top city managers and even a public group last week.
“What I saw was a poised, articulate, experienced police executive who was on top of all the issues that were brought up,” Manley said.
Ryff is a Tempe native who knows the city and police department well, which Manley said is big plus because he won’t have to go through a steep learning curve.
He’s also the first Hispanic chief, as his mother was from Mexico. The 47-year-old has commanded every bureau of the department during his 27 years on the force.
Ryff said he’s going to work on some key issues even before being sworn in. One of his priorities will be to replace the city’s three assistant chiefs by the time he takes office. He held one of those positions, and the other two are leaving by year’s end.
“I’m not aware of our department ever going through such a significant change at the command level,” he said.
Ryff said he hopes to have the new assistant chiefs in place when he starts his new job.
In an unusual arrangement, Tranter will stay on for one year as a consultant on longterm issues and will report to Ryff. Tranter’s top priority will be to conduct a staffing study, Manley said. He’ll also look at neighborhood policing and relations with other law enforcement agencies.
Tranter’s consulting will bring a smoother transition with so many other changes in the department, Manley said. He’ll earn about $165,000 — more than Ryff will make. Ryff’s salary will be $154,000 a year.
Ryff emphasized Monday that he’ll take complete control of the department his first day on the job.