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New Santa Rosa police chief says days of discord over

  • Tom Schwedhelm, a 26-year veteran, is the new chief of the Santa Rosa police department. (KENT PORTER/ PD)

When former Santa Rosa Police Chief Ed Flint nine months ago described his department as dysfunctional and deeply divided, it was Tom Schwedhelm who many said was leading the Flint opposition.

The department hierarchy was mired in allegations of unfair treatment of employees and complaints of retaliation against workers based on gender and sexual orientation.

Today, Schwedhelm is the new police chief and he says those fights are over.

There is one camp at the Santa Rosa Police Department, and that camp is the Santa Rosa Police Department, said Schwedhelm, who on Monday will be sworn in as chief of police.

Theres a real positive vibe in the organization right now. Its helping people deliver police services to the community. Were really getting on the same page, and its a very rewarding feeling.

Schwedhelm, 48, is the first chief since Melvin Dutch Flohr in 1940 to be hired from within departmental ranks.

What difference does a year make?

We had personnel changes, Schwedhelm said during an interview, referring to the departures of Flint and his second in command, Capt. Jamie Mitchel.

So obviously there were some personality changes ... One of the things I try to bring is clarity as to the roles and responsibilities. I tell (staff), You have input into the process but the decision will be at this level. I try to be very open with them ... as long as they feel like their opinion is being heard and valued it goes a long way to building mutual trust and cooperation.

Schwedhelm has been acting chief since interim Chief Tom Simms left March 12. Flint resigned under pressure in August 2008 after 4 years on the job.

Schwedhelm said the departments challenges now are primarily budget based. Negotiations with officer and management unions and Santa Rosas budget subcommittee over cutting employee costs have consumed much of Schwedhelms attention in his first weeks at the helm and will continue to do so.

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