Nevada City names Lt. Chad Ellis as new police chief |

Nevada City names Lt. Chad Ellis as new police chief

Nevada City Police Officer Chad Ellis shows off the department's new vehicle in the archive photo from June 2013.
The Union archive photo

Nevada City has a new police chief, promoting one of its own.

On Wednesday, City Manager Catrina Olson announced Lt. Chad Ellis is being promoted to police chief. Ellis takes over the position after a nine-month stint by Interim Police Chief James Leal. Ellis will be sworn in on April 24.

Working in Nevada City has been “phenomenal,” Ellis said, crediting Leal for ensuring a smooth transition.

“This is the best forward momentum and transparency this department has seen in a very long time,” Ellis said. “There are good things to come for the department and the city.”

Ellis noted he worked his way up through the ranks and has a lot of institutional knowledge about the department he now will lead.

“I know the inner workings of the department and the history, as opposed to having someone come in from out of the area,” he said. “It will be beneficial to the city … I feel very fortunate to have worked here and gotten to know everybody in this community.”

Ellis noted that stability in Nevada City’s top law enforcement spot is needed.

Leal, a retired Newark, California, police chief, took over after then-Chief Tim Foley abruptly resigned in February 2018. Prior to Foley, retired Truckee Police Chief Scott Berry served as interim part-time chief after Jim Wickham, a retiree from the Mill Valley police department, left in October 2013.

“There have been five chiefs … in 10 years,” Ellis said. “That’s a lot.”

Ellis said he was looking forward to working with Grass Valley Police Chief Alex Gammelgard and newly elected Nevada County Sheriff Shannan Moon.

“I think there’s a lot of momentum for us to work closely together, which will benefit all agencies,” he said.

Ellis has been a part of the community since high school, graduating from Bear River High School in 1999 before attending Sierra College and Yuba College Police Basic Academy. Upon graduation he was hired by the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department, working patrol in Linda and Olivehurst. He subsequently joined the department’s tactical team and attended FBI SWAT School.

Ellis was hired by Nevada City in February 2008 and was recognized as officer of the year in 2009. He became a field training officer and range master for the department and then became the first Nevada City Police detective, a new position shared between the Grass Valley and Nevada City police departments.

After three years as a detective, Ellis was promoted to sergeant and was tasked with the supervision of employees on patrol, computer systems management, scheduling and the agency’s training regimen. During that time, Ellis received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice management, attended Nevada County Community Leadership Institute and currently holds his POST basic, intermediate and advanced certificates. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2018.

In 2015, Ellis was honored by the Nevada County Law Enforcement and Fire Protection Council, receiving the Public Safety Commitment Award for saving the life of a motorcyclist who tried to flee from a traffic stop and then collided with a truck.

The motorcyclist’s leg was partially amputated and he was bleeding heavily. But Ellis recently had trained with Nevada County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Stanley on using tourniquets and retrieved one from his vehicle, assisting the EMTs in getting it into place. Ellis was nominated by Nevada County Consolidated Fire Chief Jim Turner, who said the motorcyclist would have died without his rapid intervention.

“To be involved in that situation was incredible because (the reason) we get into this line of work is to help people,” Ellis said at the time of the award. “So to be in the right place to be able to do that is a really good feeling.”

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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