Ceres City Council Relieves Police Chief Due to Medical Issues

The Ceres City Council unanimously approved an agreement Monday relieving Police Chief and Public Safety Director Art de Werk from his duties, citing confidential medical issues.

The 60-year-old chief had been on medical leave for two months before returning to work in June. He had previously had a benign mass removed from his brain, but is unclear whether or to what extent it contributed to his current, ongoing medical problems.

The chief did not attend Monday’s meeting but addressed the matter in a press release.

“My recent medical issues have changed my priorities and the healing process will have to continue for some time,” the statement read.

Monday’s meeting was the second time that the council conferred to discuss de Werk’s “discipline/dismissal/release.” According to City Attorney Mike Lyions, the agreement will not be finalized until June 23—seven days after the council’s approval—per California law. 

De Werk has served as the city’s police chief for the past 15 years. During that time, he showed leadership through “some of the most difficult times in the city’s history, including the shooting of two highly respected police officers and serving as the acting city manager during the great recession,” according to the press release.  His tenure was not without contention, however. De Werk sparred with Council Member Linda Ryno on numerous occasions. He also had contentious exchanges with City Manager Toby Wells who assumed the position after de Werk stepped down.   

Lt. Brent Smith has been appointed acting police chief in de Werk’s absence.

Read more about de Werk’s departure here.