Counting cops

Maybe it’s just a case of “fuzzy math.”

It will be interesting to see how Sacramento City Council members reconcile a report they received May 3 from Sacramento Police Chief Arturo Venegas Jr. with numbers provided to the SN&R relating to officer resignations.

The chief reported that as of April 20, eight officers had resigned from the force since the first of the year. While technically accurate, the number does not reflect a total of 17 resignations that occurred by May 9—resignations that at least one veteran police supervisor maintains Venegas and others in management knew about.

Nor did it reflect the six other officers who have said they will leave early this summer. As a result, some high-ranking police officers contend the report was purposefully misleading, designed more for damage control than the dissemination of information.

“Since January, we’ve lost more than 165 years of experience,” said the veteran supervisor, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Why not tell the council that? Why not address the real numbers here?”

As reported in an earlier cover story (“Who Let the Watchdog Out?” SN&R Cover, April 26), police officer retention is at an all-time low in the department. And while rank-and-file officers contend this situation is due to low officer morale, SPD brass claim retention issues are a problem statewide and don’t indicate problems within the department.

Deputy City Manager Richard Ramirez, who directly oversees both police and fire departments, said the numbers reported to council were accurate at the time they were reported. And he said those numbers were less important than the city’s recognition that retention and recruitment of good officers is a problem statewide.

“If we weren’t concerned about what was happening in the marketplace, we wouldn’t be asking the council to augment the police academy [budget] by $500,000,” Ramirez said. “Clearly, we’re concerned.”

A number of officers also took umbrage with Venegas’ contention that some of the officers who resigned “did the community a favor” because some were facing termination had they stayed.

Department spokesman Sergeant Daniel Hahn said that within any department, “there are officers that resign in lieu of being terminated,” but he could not say how many of the eight resignations that Venegas referred to fell into that category.

“The overall message he was sending that night was about crime stats,” Hahn continued. “And that message was that the officers on the street were directly responsible for the good crime stats we reported. [The report] was never meant to talk about all the officers that were resigning. [Those numbers] were just thrown in there.”

The police officers’ union was able to confirm that one officer out of the 11 that resigned by the time the report was complete had previously faced serious disciplinary action, though it hadn’t led to termination.

Mayor Heather Fargo and other council members did not return calls for comment for this story.