There has been no end of tricks and slights of hand in Santa Rosa's efforts to bypass community involvement in the selection of the city's next police chief, and ultimately install ex-chief Tom Schwedhelm's hand picked choice. The latest maneuver has been to put the whole process on hold until at least next September.
These closed door ploys couldn't be coming at a worse time. Santa Rosa desperately needs a new can-do chief right now who can reform a department that is plagued by years of misconduct, million dollar lawsuit payouts, and discriminatory practices. (see here
) The public needs to step in and take the reigns.
With public support we were able to stop the anti-democratic, insider succession planned for last December, and it can be done again. But first, some background.
Last October, when then Chief Tom Schwedhelm announced his upcoming December 2013 retirement, unofficial word was that he had hand picked his successor from the white male cadre of ranking officers, the same officers who have presided over the years of problems.
Official word was just as bad. City manager Kathy Millison would be naming the new chief, without community involvement, or even involvement of elected city council members. No one doubted that she would merely be a rubber stamp for Schwedhelm's choice.
Following community outcry, in December Millison was constrained to naming an acting chief only, Santa Rosa's now acting Chief Hank Schreeder. In mid January, the city contracted executive search firm Ralph Anderson and Associates, ostensibly to find candidates for the position of chief. But the text of that contract, however, put city manager Millison right back at the helm of steering the search.
Then in February, during her performance evaluation, and in the wake of her autocratic rule, city manager Millison tendered her retirement, effective next September.
The contract, along with the search for a new chief, was suspended. The plan now is that the new chief will be selected by the new city manager, but not until that person is hired and in place, at earliest next September.
This is a terrible plan. Not only are we back to square one with the new chief set to be selected by a city manager, without input from the community or from elected council members , but the long time lag serves to slide the current acting chief into permanent position by no other virtue than habituation of time.
Then comes this disturbing news..former SRPD chief Tom Schwedhelm, - the chief who applauded his officers putting real assault weapons in the hands of children, who never promoted a female officer, who presided over disastrous violence against women statistics, and other misconduct of the last four years, - former chief Schwedhelm is currently running for a seat on Santa Rosa City Council and is expected to win. There he will join ex-SRPD Lt., now council member, Ernesto Oliveras in consolidating ever more police power over the city .
What the Public Can Do:
This railroad back to yesterday needs to be stopped. The public can insist that Santa Rosa City Council install a democratic process now to select a new chief. At minimum, there should be a representative citizen's committee - with veto power - to oversee the selection process from start to finish.
Women's Justice Center