When Newark needed a new police chief in 2003, the selection was an easy one.
Then-City Manager Al Huezo selected Ray Samuels, who before then was Traffic Bureau and Professional Standards Unit Commander at the Concord Police Department.
“I don’t know if there is a hard definition or hard stereotype of what a police chief should be. But if there is … [Samuels] defied that,” Huezo said as he recalled the memory of Newark’s former police chief.
Samuels, who worked for 18 years in Concord prior to joining Newark Police, died at the age of 58, officials . Newark officials remembered him as a one-of-a-kind, approachable, supportive police chief who was devoted to the community.
“He was not exactly someone who was your typical [police] chief. I think philosophically he was against the death penalty. …He did things that differentiated [himself],” said Huezo, fondly remembering how Samuels loved race cars, good food and philosophical discussions.
In Concord, where he and retired Capt. Stuart Rolerson started riding motorcycles together in the 1980s, "... Ray's biggest accomplishment had to be [running] the traffic division," said Rolerson.
During his later tenure as chief in Newark from 2003 to 2008, Samuels was instrumental in enhancing the department’s police tactics that are still in operation today.
He developed what is now known as the and was an advocate for preparing and training officers so that they could be promoted, officials said.
His successor, Chief James Leal, expressed gratitude toward Samuels’ leadership and mentorship.
“I’m grateful for all that he taught me over the years. I was appreciative of the fact that he was willing to show me all of the things he had learned through the years,” Leal said.
The most important lesson Leal said he learned from Samuels: That police chiefs must always consider what is best for the community as a whole.
“You have to do what is right for the city…. And sometimes it’s not the most popular thing to do,” Leal said. “At the end of the day, in this position you have to do what’s best for the department. You have to do what’s best for the city.”
Still, officials said Samuels was more than a man with a badge.
“He really believed in giving back to the community,” Leal said. “He was really involved in a lot of the functions here in town … with a lot of the different community groups.”
While he was with the police department, Samuels served as president of the Newark Rotary Club, was the Area 3 Assistant Governor for Rotary District 517 and was a member of the Salvation Army Advisory Board that serves the Tri-Cities.
“Ray had strong people skills. He was very close to the Newark community… to citizens. He was very approachable,” Huezo recalled. “He was someone you just want to be around because his character was so amazing. This is a guy who if he gave you his word, you could take it to the bank. He was just very ethical, and he was a class act.
Huezo added, “I have very fond memories of him – of work and on a personal level. That’s how most people remember Ray.”
Samuels retired with the in 2008 and is survived by his wife Kathy and two children, officials said.
Samuels joined Newark PD in 1999 when he was hired as a police lieutenant. Before Newark and his 18 years with Concord Police, Samuels was an officer with Vallejo Police Department.
A memorial service will be held in his honor at 11 a.m., Fri. March 2 at the Clock Tower in Benicia.
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