City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

February 13, 2013
Deputy Chief Sam Somers chosen to lead Sacramento Police Department

somersA.jpgBy Kim Minugh
kminugh@sacbee.com

Deputy Chief Sam Somers Jr. will take the helm of the Sacramento Police Department on Saturday as the agency's 44th chief of police, City Manager John Shirey announced this morning.

Somers, 50, is a 28-year veteran of the department. During that time, he has led every major division, making him an experienced choice, Shirey said.

"He's had the whole gamut," Shirey said. "I feel he has the range and depth of experience to lead our department."

Like his predecessor, Rick Braziel, Somers is a second-generation Sacramento policeman. His father, Sam Somers Sr., retired as a captain in 1992 after a 40-year career.

Somers said he was "humbled" and "honored" to be chosen from a pool of four candidates. Deputy Chiefs Dana Matthes and Brian Louie and Capt. Jim Maccoun also applied.

"I'm very passionate about this job," Somers said after a morning news conference. "It really is a calling. It's not a paycheck."

Somers said he looks forward to rebuilding the agency after spending years "deconstructing" as the result of budget cuts. Since 2008 - when the department was at a height of about 800 sworn officers - the department has lost more than 150 sworn officers and cut $40 million from its budget.

During that time, however, crime fell. From 2007 to 2011, the city's violent crime rate dropped 35 percent and the property crime rate dropped 25 percent, according to police statistics. That trend only recently reversed course, with 2012 statistics showing violent crime rising 5 percent compared with the previous year. Property crime rose 7.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the passage of the Measure U sales tax measure last fall promises an influx of new money into the department. For the first time in years, the agency's academy will host a new class this summer, and as many as 50 new officers are expected to be on the streets by year's end.

Under Braziel's leadership, the department worked to preserve patrol services through cuts to specialty units and investigative teams. Somers, who as deputy chief most recently oversaw patrol operations and the communications center, said he plans to maintain the same commitment to patrol services.

Though he did not promise a return of problem-oriented policing teams, Somers said he would like to see that philosophy better incorporated into the patrol division, and mentioned the traffic unit as a candidate for reinstatement after the expected hires are trained and ready to hit the streets.

Somers also discussed his commitment to diversifying the department's ranks, building upon the department's existing relationships with the community, targeting the criminals who drive the bulk of the city's crime - such as chronic offenders and gang members - and increasing crime intervention and prevention efforts.

Deputy Chief Dan Schiele, who did not apply for the job, has been serving as interim police chief since Braziel retired in late December. Schiele will return to his post as a deputy chief until he retires in a few months, he said.

Schiele described Somers as a "very dynamic leader" with a good vision for the agency.

"He's creative and innovative, and he's not chained to the old, traditional policing methods," Schiele said.

Somers' salary will be $197,000.

Call The Bee's Kim Minugh, (916) 321-1038. Follow her on Twitter @Kim_Minugh.

Photo caption: Sacramento City Manager John Shirey left, named Sam Somers, right, as the city's new police chief this morning at City Hall in Sacramento. Photo by Randall Benton / rbenton@sacbee.com

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About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at rlillis@sacbee.com

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