WatchSonoma Watch

Big changes for Santa Rosa police



The Santa Rosa Police Department lost more than 150 years of experience this year as nine veteran and high-ranking officers retired, some with nearly 30 years on the force.

Santa Rosa Chief of Police Tom Schwedhelm addresses the audience about the officers promoted during a ceremony at the Santa Rosa city council chambers on Monday, Dec. 17, 2012. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG/ PD)

The retirements have paved the way for a slew of promotions and new hires, leading to changes within most if not all of the agency’s departments, from violent crimes to communications and dispatch.

On Monday, the police department held one of the largest induction and promotion ceremonies in recent years in the Santa Rosa City Council chambers before a packed audience of familiar faces in Sonoma County law enforcement and their families.

“We’ve been planning this day for years,” Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm said.

Fathers, wives and children pinned badges on three newly sworn officers as well as three sergeants, three lieutenants and a captain given new ranks.

The department has entered a period of “continuous recruitment and testing,” the chief said. It has made conditional offers to two entry-level officers and is interviewing for three more positions.

And the turnover is expected to continue next year.

The result is a major shuffle on the force that has placed new managers at the helm of the patrol, violent crimes, domestic violence, narcotics, gang investigations and dispatch desks, among others.

With an eye toward this period of turnover when he became chief in 2009, Schwedhelm instituted “succession plans” for those expected to leave.

Still, “it will be a great challenge for the organization that it happened this quickly,” Schwedhelm said.

Many among the 2012 retirees were, like Schwedhelm, part of a group that joined the force in 1983, including Capt. Gary Negri, Lt. Ben Harlin and Det. Bryan Reynolds.

Lt. Steve Bair also retired after a long career, including 19 years in Santa Rosa.

The other retirees include Officer Brennan Enos, Sgt. Steve Fraga, Officer Waid Allred, Officer Michael White and Officer Brian Bilyeu, who collectively spent 71 years with the department.

Although the retirements represent a loss of institutional knowledge, they also help the city grapple with significant pension debt. As of July 1 this year, new hires receive less generous pension benefits, part of a new contract approved in March.

Seven people were promoted from within the department.

New Capt. Craig Schwartz, who has more than 19 years experience and just returned from the FBI National Academy, now oversees the training and investigations bureaus.

The new lieutenants include Lance Badger, Rainer Navarro and Mike Tosti.

Tosti started with the Los Angeles Police Department, landed in Santa Rosa in 1991 and most recently led the narcotics team until becoming lieutenant.

Navarro, hired in 1992, led the gang unit and helped start a gang prevention program taught by officers in schools.

Hired in 1987, Badger most recently ran the motor officers and field evidence teams.

Three officers with between 12 and 16 years experience were named sergeants: John Cregan, Josh Ludtke and Ryan Corcoran.

Corcoran started at the Rohnert Park Public Safety Department and moved to the Santa Rosa force in 2005, distinguishing himself as a violent-crimes detective.

Both Ludtke and Cregan were hired in 2005 and developed expertise in gang investigations. Cregan started with the Novato Police Department and Ludtke with Arcata police.

Among the new officers sworn in Monday was 2007 Cardinal Newman graduate Ken Ferrigno. Two others newly hired were Garrison Swartz of Livermore and Jeffrey Travers of Chico, who previously trained with Fish and Game.

Rachel Maconi, who started as a crime analyst in 1999, will now supervise the communications/dispatch unit.

The department also hired longtime city employee Chelsea Green as a police technician and brought in an experienced dispatcher from Riverside County, Sarah Brian.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220, julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com or on Twitter @jjpressdem.

21 Responses to “Big changes for Santa Rosa police”

  1. Juvenal says:


    ALthough this converstaion has been moved off to the right, Accountable’s bunk must be pointed out. Following his links, one discovers that Santa Rosa is in the middle of listed cities, both in terms of average wage and in terms of $$ per resident.

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  2. GAJ says:

    @David Stubblebine.

    If I recall the figures correctly, Public Safety in SR used to eat 40% of the “Pie.”

    That number is now north of 60% and climbing.

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  3. Juvenal says:


    Read your link. An intoxicated man stepped in front of a police cruiser. Tell me again how this incident applies to anything under discussion here?

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  4. Juvenal says:


    “By law, the state must allocate taxpayer funds when CalPERS’ own investments don’t cover the benefit promises made to retirees in union contracts”

    A far cry from your city paying retired cops salaries crack. Also, you forgot to mention that when investments do well, the City’s obligation for eactive employees is reduced or, as in 1999, eliminated.

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  5. David Stubblebine says:

    GAJ has finally brought the benefits discussion back on track: Pensions, generous or not, are just part of the larger benefits package and the public discussion should focus on the size of the pie and less on the nature of the slices. GAJ says the size of the pie is too big; I do not agree but I do agree that this is where the discussion should focus and not so much on pensions.

    That said, I think this entire string of comments (including my earlier comment) misses the point of this article. Santa Rosa is bidding farewell to several long time police professionals and we, the public they served, should be wishing them well. During these nine careers, there were probably several moments of courage in the face of danger but these are also the guys who worked graveyard on Christmas, stood out in the rain for hours on some pointless perimeter, missed their sons’ baseball games because they got called in to cover sick shifts, and many many other sacrifices necessary in their public service. Now they can say they survived it all and I, for one, congratulate them on their dedicated careers. I hope they enjoy the retirements they earned.

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  6. Accountable says:

    Santa Rosa spends more on city wages than any other Bay Area City of comparable size. AND, we have the lowest cost of living than these other Bay Area Cities.

    Santa Rosa – $95,222,369 http://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/Cities/City.aspx?entityid=497&fiscalyear=2011

    Fremont -$90,736,338 http://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/Cities/City.aspx?entityid=64&fiscalyear=2011

    Sunnyvale – $86,836,436 http://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/Cities/City.aspx?entityid=467&fiscalyear=2011

    Hayward – $82,840,644 http://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/Cities/City.aspx?entityid=65&fiscalyear=2011

    This should outrage the citizens of Santa Rosa. We, the people, need to show up at City Council meetings, picket, and put forward Propositions to take back control of the City finances. We can demand changes if we all just show up and let our voices be heard.

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  7. RICHARD says:

    Santa Rosa PD is over staffed. When tax payers pay for more than what is need that is a waste of tax payer,s money.

    A car lost its front wheel and came to a stop at the curb. No one was injured, the car was the only property damaged, it stopped in a legal parking spot.

    How many police do you think responded to this situation ? Six police responded to this situation. Santa Rosa PD is over staffed.

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  8. Jim says:

    I agree with Reality Check that cops should be paid well. However, like every job in the private sector, police officer (like ALL public employees) should be paid based on supply and demand. There are hundreds of POST certified people waiting for police jobs to open. More graduate from police academies all over the state every other month. With the massive supply of potentially qualified applicants basic economics says that salaries should be flat or dropping. Yet salaries continue to rise.

    When basic economic principals aren’t adhered to you end up with overpaid employees. When the economy is booming you have a lower supply of applicants and a huge demand…salaries rise. When the economy is bad (thank the government) there is massive supply of workers and low demand…salaries drop. Why don’t public employees face general market conditions?

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  9. Taxpayer says:

    Its disgusting how much public safety people make compared to 12 years ago.Bankruptcy is the only solution.Start all over.There are plenty of police/fire academy graduates that will work for 50k a year and be happy.

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  10. Reality Check says:

    “Cops in Santa Rosa get paid a lot. They should, they negotiated those salaries.”

    No, cops should be well paid because they provide an essential service to the public, one that demands much of each and every officer. Take any poll, which city service does the public value the most? The police department ranks #1, as it should.

    That said, your implication that police don’t live as long as others is false. CalPers issues the pension checks for many police departments. They know the life expectancy of every covered occupation in the state. Retired police officers, on average, enjoy a full life.

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  11. Retired Cop says:

    Cops in Santa Rosa get paid a lot. They should, they negotiated those salaries. They negotiated their benefits. It may be or or less than you make, that is life. You may not think it is fair, that is fine too, life is not fair. Publish all the numbers you want, accurate or not, they don’t change a thing. They get paid well and will get good retirements. A friend of mine was a cop for 30 years. He retired 5 years ago and just had heart surgery for stress related issues. He made it to 58 so far, I wish him a long life, many others in the police work don’t get that option.

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  12. GAJ says:

    The cops have negotiated that the City pay their PERS contributions in lieu of pay increases, so these guys never paid a dime out of their own pockets…and if you try and convince me that their pay is not ridiculously high you’re barking up the wrong tree.

    2010 Highes paid Police Sergeants made $179k, (I’m guessing one of the Sergeant about to retire).

    Highest paid Police Officer for same year made $154k.

    Now who would you imagine that to be, (hint, it’s not a rookie).

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  13. Snarky says:

    Here is another story about police officers in the news:


    Will any accountability be assigned to the officer who ran that pedestrian down? Nope.

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  14. RAW says:

    Jimjim is right.
    But since CalPers has abou $250 Billion in the bank, they wont be needing any more from us for a few decades, if ever.

    But go readmore from the Solendaoters at New Sonoma and educate yourself. Remember, when you want to know what to think, ask the Solendra brothers they will tell you what to think. New Sonoma on government, their goal is to control.

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  15. Jim says:

    Who funds CalPERS? THE TAXPAYER!

    By law, the state must allocate taxpayer funds when CalPERS’ own investments don’t cover the benefit promises made to retirees in union contracts



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  16. Juvenal says:


    “And guess who funds PERS?”

    1) Wall Street; 2) employees in anticipation of retirement; 3) employers, in anticipation of employees’ retirement–compensation for active employees.

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  17. David Stubblebine says:

    To say Santa Rosa is still paying “salaries” to retirees in factually inaccurate on any level. It is true that a fractional amount of Santa Rosa’s continuing PERS contributions will make its way into the pensions of these retirees, it is a minuscule fraction. The pensions are paid for from the PERS fund and that fund comes from the past contributions made during the retiree’s working career. Once the worker retires, all that stops.

    The pension critics have whined at every opportunity about how they want to see pension costs reduced and experts from both sides of the issue agree that turnover through retirements is an essential element of any cost reduction, yet when Santa Rosa takes the most significant step in that direction yet seen in Sonoma County critics still find room to whine about it. Do these people also complain when they get exactly what they want for Christmas?

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  18. GAJ says:

    And guess who funds PERS?

    It ain’t the Tooth Fairy!

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  19. Juvenal says:


    “Lost 9 officers but not their salaries.”

    Wron gagain, Jim. Retirements are paid by PERS.

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  20. Rick says:

    I am sorry someone mis-informed you.
    Their retirement payment do not come from the City of Santa Rosa. It now comes through the State of CA from CALPERS. The city has stopped paying towards those officers.

    Dont get upset about bad information that make no sense, because it isn’t true.

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  21. Jim says:

    Lost 9 officers but not their salaries. You see, the city of Santa Rosa will continue to pay these 9 officers even though their experience is no longer benefiting the city. Makes perfect sense to me. What a brilliant deal the city made with the union.

    No mention as to how many will move to the Sheriff’s Department and collect a pension while “earning” another one.

    I love the comment that this will help the city grapple with pension debt. How? Now the police department will likely increase its payroll by 9 officers because there “retirees” will still get paid. The city will then pay another officer to actually work. If we dug into the details of the Santa Rosa PD payroll we’d probably see that there are a few more. So each officer being paid to work is likely filling in for 2-3 retired ones, making the position a $300,000+ per year expense. Oh wait, the officers I know at SRPD make $125,000+. Maybe a closer estimate would be $400,000 per yea per officer.

    Sweet. At least the city isn’t bankrupt. Oh wait…

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