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Chronicle Columnist Chip Johnson Pans Chief
October 18, 2002

Today’s San Francisco Chronicle had a column by Chip Johnson regarding Richmond Police Chief Joseph Samuels. See http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2002/10/18/EB67648.DTL, or read below:

Richmond's police chief feeling heat
Chip Johnson
Friday, October 18, 2002
©2002 San Francisco Chronicle.

URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2002/10/18/EB67648.DTL

Richmond Police Chief Joseph Samuels was sworn in as president of the nation's largest police chiefs' association last week, and while that term lasts a year, his reign as chief may end sooner.

It's a good thing his colleagues in the International Association of Chiefs of Police think a lot of him, because, as with his stormy departure as Oakland's police chief three years earlier, the honeymoon in Richmond is definitely over.

"The commission is very unhappy with the way the chief is leading this department," said Bob Sutcliffe, police commission chairman.

Richmond city officials have just about had it with Samuels, and it didn't help that he was in Minneapolis accepting his new position last week while a Popsicle vendor was gunned down in the city's 22nd homicide of the year.

When you compare Richmond's per capita homicide rate with Oakland's, they're very close, and that's not a good thing. Oakland has about 400,000 people and 88 homicides this year as of last week; Richmond has 99,216 people.

Now that Samuels is the primary spokesman for an active political organization of 19,000 U.S. police chiefs, the Richmond City Council has decided to eliminate a police captain's position in favor of an assistant chief who will head the department in Samuels' absence.

His critics are frustrated by a perceived lack of ability - or interest - in establishing a community policing program, and three of the city's nine police commissioners wrote a scathing letter to the City Council expressing no- confidence in Samuels' leadership.

According to the letter, his judgment on personnel matters and police policy also leave a lot to be desired.

Samuels' critics on the commission said he is unfamiliar with his officers by name, has no knowledge of daily department operations and even once hired a police officer who worked for three months before he was terminated because of a felony conviction.

The bottom line is that if Samuels doesn't get with the program soon, some changes could be made.

Without drastic changes in the next six months, Sutcliffe expected the commission to hold a no-confidence vote to bring their complaints to the City Council and the city manager's office.

The commission's letter, written by Doris Brown and signed by Sutcliffe and Susan Geick, accused Samuels of failing to establish a solid relationship with community leaders and ineptitude as a manager.

"Since his inauguration in 1999, the number of claims brought against the city for (police) misconduct has tripled," Brown wrote.

"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," added Brown.

Officer misconduct is a particularly sensitive topic in Richmond, where the exploits of renegade officers in the late 1970s and early 1980s cost the city millions in legal settlements and national attention as a city with a troubled police department.

And community relationships forged under former police chief Bill Landau have been largely lost under Samuels' leadership, said Sutcliffe.

He also drew heavy criticism during a review of city police operations review for suggesting that police officers in the field be given discretion in the use of force. Under Samuels tenure, the city has doubled payouts to settle complaints of police misconduct.

This is deja vu all over again for Samuels, who was fired as Oakland's police chief three years ago.

Policy differences with Oakland City Hall officials led to City Manger Robert Bobb and Mayor Jerry Brown publicly expressing sagging confidence in Samuels. Then it got personal.

By the end of his term, Bobb and Samuels could barely sit in the same room together, and after a brief attempt to rally public support at a city council meeting attended by 200 boisterous citizen-supporters, Samuels moved on to Richmond.

E-mail Chip Johnson at chjohnson@sfchronicle.com or write to him at 483 Ninth St., Suite 100, Oakland, CA 94607.

©2002 San Francisco Chronicle.   Page 1