Santa Rosa Police Chief Ed Flint admits that severe strife has made his department dysfunctional, but insists it has not influenced the quality of law enforcement.
The deep divides and mistrust that mark the department hierarchy were thrust into public view last week when city officials fired Capt. James Mitchel, the patrol commander viewed as the chief's second in command.
The firing came in the wake of a series of formal employee complaints directed at Flint and Mitchel alleging gender bias, sexual discrimination and management retaliation.
City Manager Jeff Kolin, who hired Flint in 2003, said the chief has not faced disciplinary action stemming from the turmoil in his department. He also said the city will hire a consulting firm to work with Flint and his commanders to improve personnel and management skills.
The complaints and termination publicly exposed a rift in the department that Flint said has been deepening over the past year.
"The issues of dysfunction surround how we process information, how we make decisions and resolve problems. How we go about that is one of the elements we are looking at closely," Flint said. "But operationally, the department is doing very well."
Flint said this week his concern for the future of the department and community perception of the department has "reached a pinnacle."
"At this point we have a high level of concern as we deal with rumors and complaints," Flint said.
He wouldn't characterize the divisions within his command staff, but sources inside the department said some high-ranking employees are dissatisfied with management styles and that many had separated into factions that tended to support either Mitchel or the other captain on the force, Tom Schwedhelm.