The arrest of a longtime Santa Rosa Junior College police officer suspected of embezzlement came as a "gut-punch" to the department he helped form decades ago, SRJC Police Chief Matt McCaffrey said.

Jeff Holzworth, 51, had the greatest tenure in the force of 14 sworn officers and held significant responsibilities that gave him access to money.

"They are devastated," McCaffrey said of Holzworth's fellow officers. "Jeff was our most senior officer and he was very well liked, not only within the department but with the junior college at large. He's been here forever."

Holzworth faces felony charges of grand theft and embezzlement and was arrested after he finished his shift at 10 a.m. Wednesday. He was released at 9:30 p.m. from the Sonoma County Jail after he posted bond on $150,000 bail, jail records show.

Holzworth's arraignment was rescheduled for 8:30 a.m. Monday.

Holzworth is suspected of stealing "several thousand dollars," but Santa Rosa police officials declined to give a specific figure.

On Thursday outside Holzworth's Santa Rosa home, defense attorney Joe Passalacqua said he was retained to represent the officer.

"We'll be giving no statements at this time," Passalacqua said.

The investigation began with a chance observation by a fellow officer, McCaffrey said. The officer saw something that raised his suspicion and he immediately reported it to the chief.

McCaffrey said he spoke with several others in the department and, about 24 hours later, called Santa Rosa police on Nov. 1.

"Just based on the information the employee gave me, I thought there was enough to open a criminal investigation," McCaffrey said.

Santa Rosa Police Lt. Lance Badger said detectives were not yet done investigating how much Holzworth is suspected of taking.

Badger declined to say how the officer allegedly took the money or where the funds originated.

"It's going to take a while to get everything ironed out," Badger said.

Holzworth was born in Santa Rosa and graduated from Montgomery High School in 1980, according to a May 2005 SRJC newsletter in which he was honored as "employee of the month."

He was a recent SRJC graduate and newly minted cadet in 1984 when he and Chief Terry Stewart were the first two members of the fledgling police force, McCaffrey said.

"He was with the department before there were sworn police officers," McCaffrey said.

Stewart could not immediately be reached for comment.

Over the course of 28 years on the job, Holzworth supervised the student cadet payroll, handled evidence and handled the "chain of custody" of evidence for all court cases, according to the newsletter.

Holzworth most recently worked a day-shift on patrol and managed permit machines and parking meters, including collecting money, McCaffrey said.

Holzworth was placed on paid administrative leave after his arrest.

McCaffrey said he does not suspect any other department staff were involved in embezzlement. The department's 14 sworn positions include the chief, a lieutenant, three sergeants and seven officers.

"There is a higher expectation from the community that police officers are beyond reproach," McCaffrey said. "We are going to have to rebuild that trust with the community."

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