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A Chief's Chief or a Disappointment?
October 5, 2002

When it comes to Richmond’s chief of police, neutral assessments are hard to find. Nineteen thousand of his peers, worldwide, elected him to the highest office a police chief can hold. Presumably, that makes him a chief’s chief and a source of pride to Richmond residents. In the West County Times story, reproduced below, Samuels is quoted as saying that his appointment "is extremely beneficial to Richmond." He said his new post will provide him more access to high-level federal officials and information about federal grants that could help his department.

Richmond residents are split on their critiques. Under the chief’s tenure, Richmond’s crime rate, overall, continues to decrease in most categories. Homicides, however are over last year’s level with three months to go. The chief’s questionable embracing of Community Oriented Policing has been a source of continuing controversy among community leaders. The department, however, appears to be moving toward fully embracing the Community Oriented Policing Ad Hoc Committee’s recommendations. A recent incident, ultimately dropped by the district attorney, involving the Soto family arrest following a Cinco de Mayo festival has alienated some of the Latino community.

One-third of the nine-person Police Commission sent the following letters to the City Council this past week:


I [signed by two members of the Police Commission] would like to share with you and my fellow Commissioners, a matter which has weighed heavily on my mind for some time.

As you also know, I am a long time resident of Richmond and my family and I have been activists in bettering both our immediate community and the City of Richmond as a whole. During my terms as a Police Commissioner, I have always felt proud that Richmond has a fair and accessible process wherein citizens can report what they perceive to be police misconduct.

I am disheartened by the lack of leadership and commitment demonstrated by Chief Samuels rendering services to citizens of Richmond. As a Police Commissioner, I am sickened and appalled by the types and increase in number of complaints we have received. Photographs of complainants’ injuries look as if they were taken on a battlefront. Allegations of oral sex on duty exude seemliness while videotaped threats to falsify incident reports hardly instill confidence in the department. Additionally, Chief Samuels insists on hiring candidates that are not qualified, but based solely on his own individual standards; only to have to terminate them when it is disclosed that they have felony convictions.

To add to his incremental ineptitude as a leader, I am informed that since his inauguration as Chief in August 1999, the number of claims brought against the City for misconduct has tripled. Similarly, I am informed that the number of Pitchess Motions filed for discovery of police personnel files has doubled in that same time frame.

What most distresses me is that a patrolman against whom the commission sustained a complaint, and whom a jury in Martinez found to be not credible, is currently the subject of 2-3 claims against the city for police brutality. Again, the injuries are reportedly akin to those sustained on a battlefront. I fear that with the retention of this officer and others of his mindset, the police use of force is not equitably distributed across racial, gender and age groups. I have noted the repetition of complaints of police brutality against specific officers; to date those officers remain in the department.

I interviewed six Police Chiefs for a project outside the Commission, all had issues with Chief Samuels. They expressed an inability to work with him and Armand Mulder in the absence of Chief Samuels. Dr. Mulder is a teacher and has no history of law enforcement training or experience, yet his position replaced one of our captain's salaries.

Chief Samuels does not appear to have day-to-day knowledge of the Police Department's Operations. Chief Samuels attends our Commission meetings but is unable to answer questions regarding operations. I find it most disturbing that the Chief s response is usually by bringing someone from the department to answer the questions put to him.

Chief Samuels has made no effort to respond to the Contra Costa Grand Jury's suggestion, among other things, that there should be a lunch room and accessible water fountains in the department.

I made a comment to Chief Samuels regarding the deplorable conditions of the officers’ locker room. His response to me was, " As long as I have my office and my own bathroom, I could care less."

Chief Samuels avoids the total physical layout of the police department. I have only seen him enter and leave by the back entrance up to his office. He does not know all of the employees in his charge by name or face after two years as chief.

I am speaking as a private citizen. Please share this with the Commission and forward any comments they or you may have with this letter to the City Manager and members of the City Council.


 Enclosed please find a letter from ____[member of the Police Commission], whom many of you know. Although I have no personal knowledge of many of the incidents that ____ writes of, I wholeheartedly concur with both the spirit and intent of the letter. I have no confidence in Chief Joseph Samuels, Jr. 

His lack of leadership is appalling. Some time ago, the Commission sent him a policy recommendation about vehicular pursuits within the City limits; those suggestions were never implemented with the patrol staff, and as you know, the City currently faces liability after such a pursuit at 19th and Barrett involving a young schoolteacher.

 After three years on the job, Joseph Samuels remains an enigma wrapped inside a conundrum; I can only conclude that he has used the citizens of Richmond to advance his career goals whatever they may be. I am not confident that he will serve and protect the citizens of Richmond after he is made President of ICOP [International Association of Chiefs of Police] this month.

 Speaking as a private citizen and taxpayer, I suggest that we cut our losses and begin the task of looking for a Chief of Police that does instill confidence



Richmond official to lead police chief association Richmond official to lead chiefs of police
Joseph Samuels Jr., who was hired to head department in 1999, is to be named association president this week
By Karl Fischer

Posted on Sat, Oct. 05, 2002

RICHMOND - Police Chief Joseph Samuels Jr. will next week become president of a 19,000-member professional organization for law enforcement leaders.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police will appoint Samuels to a one-year term Wednesday at its annual conference in Minneapolis.

"I think it says less about me and more about the membership," said Samuels, reached Friday at the conference. "I don't have the most impressive credentials, but they feel I am the voice and the face they want to use to try and advance the interests of police work and police across the country."

The IACP is a nonprofit organization that promotes communication between police agencies, weighs in on national and international law enforcement issues, and lobbies Capitol Hill. It has members in more than 100 countries, a staff spokesman said.

Samuels became Richmond's chief in June 1999, following six years as Oakland police chief and two years as the chief in Fresno. He joined the association's executive board in 1996 as a vice president.

In a press release issued by the city, Samuels is quoted as saying that his appointment "is extremely beneficial to Richmond." He said his new post will provide him more access to high-level federal officials and information about federal grants that could help his department.

Samuels replaces Chief William Berger of Florida's North Miami Beach Police Department, who served as IACP president in 2001-02.

"I want to point out that my first priority is my commitment to the city of Richmond. That's where my bread is buttered," Samuels said Friday. "I will still give my best efforts every day as chief of police for this department first."

The Richmond City Council selected Samuels as police chief a few months after he resigned in Oakland under pressure from Mayor Jerry Brown, who ousted several department heads in that city following his election in 1998.

During community meetings before Samuels' hire, some Richmond residents questioned whether he viewed the position as a stepping stone to another big-city chief's job, but Samuels assured them that he hoped to retire in Richmond.

"The good news is, for somebody to come from the city of Richmond and be elected by his peers to a position of that stature is certainly flattering ... and should be a source of pride to the city," Councilman Tom Butt said. "The flip side is, he's going to be gone an awful lot."

Samuels will likely spend more time out of town on association business as IACP president, Butt said.

The City Council discussed the issue for more than a year after learning Samuels would soon head the association, and in April it created an assistant chief position, held by Charles Bennett, to manage the department while Samuels was away.