The collection of 49ers paraphernalia adorning the office of Chief Dean Capelletti, the new chief of police for the Oakley Police Department, reveals that he has deep roots in the Bay Area even though he spent his professional career to date in Southern California.
Born in Stanford and raised in the Bay Area, Capelletti moved to the southern part of the state while in high school. Until a few weeks ago, we remained there, but family up north and 49ers season tickets kept him close to his roots.
“Every Sunday morning, we’d drive up, watch the game and then drive back right after the game,” Capelletti said. “I usually had to work on Monday, or my wife did. That’s the type of diehard fans we are. I’ve always had that tie to Northern California. I technically lived in Los Angeles more than half my life, but I still consider myself a Bay Area guy. I always wanted to come back to the Bay Area.”
Capelletti, the department’s third chief since Oakley formed its own police department in 2016, took the reins of the department at the end of September replacing the now-retired Chief Eric Christensen. Christensen held the job for two years before announcing his retirement in May.
“Throughout the hiring process, we were looking primarily for an experienced candidate who we knew would care for the City of Oakley just like we do,” said City Manager Bryan Montgomery. “Chief Capelletti brings great energy and passion for the law enforcement profession and is very skilled in working at building relationships of trust, which is especially important in these unique and challenging times. I know Chief Capelletti will fully devote himself to the protection and service of the people of Oakley.”
Capelletti’s path to a career in law enforcement followed an unusual route. Before entering the police academy, he was already married with children, a mortgage and a successful career in the private sector. The events of a clear fall morning in September 2001 triggered a change in his plans.
“I watched 9/11 unfold, and something just called to me,” he explained. “I had to do something.”
With the enthusiastic support of his wife, Capelletti, who was then 32 years old, put himself through the police academy. He continued working full time and spent 11 months attending academy classes on nights and weekends. After graduating, he was recruited by the La Habra Police Department and the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff.
“I went to La Habra, basically, because they moved faster than the Contra Costa Sheriff,” Capelletti said. “Othewise, I might have been a CoCo sheriff.”
In the intervening 18 years since starting at La Habra, Capelletti worked his way up to a senior captain title and was poised to be a strong candidate for the chief’s position there, which was expected to become available this year. Though he’s not sure how, his wife came across the open position at the OPD. The role checked all the boxes that Capelletti wanted in a chief’s role and provided the added opportunity to return to the Bay Area. Before he applied, he visited Oakley over the Fourth of July holiday.
“Immediately when I got in the city I just felt like this was the right place for me,” he said. “The city felt vibrant. It felt alive. I loved all the greenery. I loved how open it was. It gave me that Mayberry feel.”
Police agencies in East County often work closely together. Chief Tom Hansen of the Brentwood Police Department had a chance to sit down with the new chief over lunch. He came away impressed, noting Capelletti’s strong tactical and administrative background and his enthusiasm for the new role.
“I think he’s going to bring some good ideas to the already well-run Oakley Police Department,” Hansen said. “I look forward to working with him in collaboration to better serve our East County citizens. We’re all on the same page that we can be better together, and we’re going to work on that.”
Calling himself an optimist, Capelletti said he doesn’t see challenges, he sees opportunities. After less than two months on the job, he said that officers of the OPD are among the best he’s ever seen, and he’s looking forward to working with them and the city’s residents to shape the growth of the department.
“The city is growing and I want to jump on that wave,” Capelletti said. “I want to be part of the growth of the city of Oakley. I want to be the one that leads the men and women of the police department to mirror what the community wants us to be. You don’t often get an opportunity to do that. That’s what drew me here.”