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The top CHP officer in Sonoma County, Capt. Greg Tracey, has been relieved of his duties while the agency conducts an investigation into issues that include his management practices, say several law enforcement sources.

Tracey, 54, was placed on administrative leave March 8.

Complaints have included allegations of favoritism, threatening and retaliatory behavior.

As head of the California Highway Patrol's Sonoma County office, Tracey is akin to a police chief and oversees the third-largest law enforcement agency in Sonoma County.

Napa CHP Capt. Chris Childs currently is filling Tracey's position as commander of the office in Rohnert Park, CHP spokeswoman Diana McDermott said.

CHP officials Tuesday said Tracey remains a state employee but would not confirm whether he is on leave or the subject of an investigation, citing state personnel regulations.

Calls to the Rohnert Park office regarding the new management were directed to CHP officials at the Golden Gate Division office in Vallejo, which oversees the Sonoma County office.

"At this time specifically, Capt. Tracey is not the subject of a criminal investigation," said McDermott, public information officer for the Golden Gate Division. "And we are restricted by state law on commenting on whether any employee is the subject of an internal investigation."

McDermott also would not say why Tracey was not working at the Rohnert Park office, where he had been commander since December 2010.

"He's been given direction by his superiors and what this specifically is, I don't have that available," McDermott said.

Messages left over four days at Tracey's Petaluma home and on his cellphone weren't returned. Emails sent to his CHP address bounce back with a statement that he's not available and a referral to Childs.

Word of Tracey's exit quickly spread throughout Sonoma County law enforcement circles, where he has been well-known for years.

"His picture is off the picture board. They've changed the locks; another captain is packing up his office," said one CHP source. "They told us . . . he's not coming back to this office."

The Rohnert Park office covers highways and all unincorporated roads in Sonoma County except for a part of southeastern Sonoma Valley, which is in the Napa jurisdiction. With 77 officers, eight sergeants and two lieutenants, it is the fifth-largest of the 12 CHP offices in the Bay Area.

The investigation stemmed from complaints about Tracey's ability to lead the office, according to several current and former CHP personnel sources who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Sources said an anonymous letter detailing concerns was sent to the agency's Sacramento headquarters. The letter and other complaints include allegations that Tracey inappropriately removed employees from special assignments as retaliation, participated in threatening behavior and imposed disciplinary action exceeding the level of the infraction.

An investigation was launched at the request of Sacramento CHP officials. It has prompted perhaps two dozen interviews of employees from all shifts and assignments throughout the office, including officers and sergeants.

Sources said during Tracey's tenure as lieutenant and captain at the Rohnert Park office, several veteran officers and sergeants transferred out, preferring to commute to other CHP jobs, citing stress from a caustic workplace under Tracey's management.

Sources said this is the second time Tracey's management has been investigated by CHP officials. An investigation led to minor disciplinary action while he was a lieutenant, they said.

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Tracey later was promoted to captain and assigned to the same office.

The timing of Tracey's departure from the office took many by surprise, sources said.

The day before, Tracey was in uniform and attended the monthly meeting of the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Chiefs Association. He also was slated to be the keynote speaker at the annual Sonoma County Law Enforcement Officer of the Year March 12. Banquet organizers said they were alerted at the last minute that he wasn't available.

Prior to his promotion to captain of the Rohnert Park office, Tracey served there as lieutenant for five years.

Tracey started his law enforcement career at a California State Police officer in July 1983. When the agency, which primarily protected state property, was absorbed by the CHP in 1995, Tracey soon became a CHP sergeant, according to his employment records, McDermott said.

He was promoted to lieutenant in 2001 and then to captain in 2009. Tracey served as lieutenant in the Sonoma County office from 2004 to 2009 and transferred to the communication center in Vallejo.

He returned to the Rohnert Park office as commander in December 2010.

His annual salary as captain is about $168,000.

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or randi.rossmann@ pressdemocrat.com.

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