You get what you pay for

Police chief Albert Najera wanted to announce his retirement this week. But with the Sacramento Bee about to ding him and City Manager Ray Kerridge for Najera’s recent double-digit raises, and with the SN&R already knowing that the chief was leaving, he made a hasty announcement last Tuesday.

With all the hubbub, Najera hasn’t gotten to talk much about which direction the police department should go when he’s gone.

By most accounts, Najera was a successful chief. Under his leadership, recruiting has gotten easier, more women have joined the force and citizen complaints are down.

But Sacramento’s police department has only about 1.5 officers per 1,000 citizens—one of the lowest ratios in the nation. And while violent-crime rates have come down during Najera’s tenure, he told SN&R, “We still don’t do enough on those lower-level crimes that are so frustrating to people,” like car break-ins and purse snatchings and stolen bikes.

He hopes before he leaves to bring his “master plan” to the Sacramento City Council—most likely sometime at the end of November. He’ll lay out what the department needs, and it’ll be up to the next chief and to City Hall to figure out how to get it. But with the city already facing a $55 million deficit, there aren’t a lot of options.

“We already take up 60 percent of the city’s general fund. I don’t think it’s fair to ask for more,” Najera said. “I’ve been looking at this for some time. I think we need to go to the voters,” with a ballot measure that would fund a better police force. The details aren’t there yet, and new taxes or bonds are a tough sell. But if the Maloofs stay out of it, who knows?