New Rohnert Park public safety director looks to stabilize department hit by turmoil
Since his arrival in Rohnert Park a little more than a month ago, Tim Mattos, the new director of the city’s Department of Public Safety, has launched a substantial restructuring of the city’s dual police and fire agency to address past shortcomings and establish a culture of mentorship and oversight.
Mattos, 55, formerly of Suisun City, is attempting to reshape the department at a time of particular turmoil. The police force came under intense scrutiny last year over its controversial drug and cash seizure program, triggering two federal civil rights lawsuits, the sudden retirement of longtime chief Brian Masterson and the resignation of a decorated sergeant who led the agency’s seizure operations targeting motorists.
A third case, initiated by a family whose home was searched in 2014 by Rohnert Park police without a warrant, prompted a federal judge last month to order the city to improve officers’ training on probation searches to ensure they follow the law.
A consultant was hired last year to suggest improvements in day-to-day operations, and the city last summer launched an outside police auditor — former Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan — to review procedures in place under Masterson.
Recommendations from both efforts have been implemented while Jordan’s audit moves forward, with no date set for completion, city staff said.
Mattos also is reorganizing the chain of command within the department to increase oversight of personnel, more than doubling the number of supervisory hours worked by command-level staff.
“I don’t think anybody was sleeping on the job. I would say it was a structure that created an environment that made it difficult to have the necessary oversight that was needed,” Mattos said of past leadership. “With the new structure in place, we can set expectations of oversight and supervision. It’s also putting together the building blocks that provide us the ability to start really developing our people.”
Under the new plan, three commander positions and an administrative sergeant role will be transitioned into four lieutenant positions. Previously, the department lacked lieutenants. Going forward, those posts will act as an additional layer of supervision for sergeants and police officers, Mattos said. The 103-employee department currently includes 68 sworn officers.
Two deputy chiefs — one each focused on police and fire — are also being added to serve below Mattos. The internal recruitment process opened last week and Mattos hopes to fill all six jobs by the middle of March. Aaron Johnson, the department’s current police commander, and Mike Bates, his counterpart in fire services, are expected to be the only internal applicants for the respective deputy chief roles.
“It’s important to put the right people in place in an agency that’s both police and fire,” said Mattos. “There’s not many of them, and so it was a decision that I thought about a lot and came to the conclusion that we need to start in-house.”
The department, with an annual budget of more than $20 million, is also resolving a longstanding shortage of public safety officers that led to mandatory overtime shifts at the city’s two firehouses. The department is closing in on full employment, Mattos said, the result of stepped-up recruitment and retention efforts, including the recent resumption of police dog and school resource officer specialty programs.