The system of collecting cash from Santa Rosa Junior College parking meters gave a veteran officer suspected of embezzlement sole control over the money with little oversight.
Court files made public this week detail a system that allowed Officer Jeff Holzworth to collect cash at any time and erase the accounting memory on each meter.
Holzworth, 51, is suspected of stealing thousands of dollars by returning only some of the coins and bills from meters he managed at the Santa Rosa campus and a public safety training site in Windsor, police said.
SRJC Police Chief Matt McCaffrey said he changed the collection procedures used by officers "literally the morning Jeff was arrested" Nov. 28 on suspicion of grand theft and embezzlement.
"For starters, it's no longer a one-man operation," McCaffrey said. "No one person will be doing pick-ups by themselves."
A sergeant on the force reported his suspicions to McCaffrey after seeing coins and cash in Holzworth's possession and observing strange behavior, according to a search warrant affidavit.
On Oct. 24, Holzworth gave the sergeant a ride in his pickup to a training event. The sergeant told police that the cup holders were filled with quarters and he found six stacks of $1 bills in a center console.
But the sergeant said he had long been suspicious of Holzworth.
According to the affidavit, the sergeant said that about two years ago he saw Holzworth, who was off duty and wearing sweats and a T-shirt, collecting cash from the meters. When confronted, Holzworth said he had to empty the meters before leaving for Las Vegas, the sergeant said.
A Santa Rosa police detective investigating the matter noted in the document that it was a Sunday and the accounting department was closed.
And as far back as 2006, the sergeant saw that a black bag Holzworth used to carry meter tools was also full of cash and quarters, according to the document.
With 28 years on the force, Holzworth is the most veteran officer in the department.
Santa Rosa Police Lt. Lance Badger said detectives are still poring over Holzworth's personal finances and have not finished tallying how much he's suspected of taking.
McCaffrey said he's looking into permanent safeguards to both "prevent theft and allegations of theft against our employees."
Prosecutors asked for more time to file charges. Holzworth is scheduled to be in court Dec. 17.