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Search is on for police chief

By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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The search is on for Rocklin’s next top cop. With nearly a decade as Rocklin’s Police chief, Mark Siemens is officially retiring in two weeks, according to the city. City Manager Rick Horst, who’s been on the job for a month, now has to find Siemens’ replacement. Horst is not saying much about the search, except that he is not recruiting candidates from other police agencies. “I think it is appropriate to look in-house first,” Horst said. That’s something Siemens said will be beneficial for the department and the city. “It has been very satisfying to hire so many very qualified police personnel of this past 10 years,” Siemens said. “I feel very good that the city manager is looking inside the department for my successor as I know that Rocklin and the police department will be in good hands.” Horst identified two candidates, which include Rocklin Police Support Services Capt. Ron Lawrence. Lawrence, a 21-year veteran, came from Palo Alto Police Department in the Bay area in 2006 and is on the board of directors of the Peace for Families domestic violence center in Roseville. Another candidate is Rocklin Police Operations Commander Capt. Dan Ruden, who’s been with the department since 2004. Ruden, a 28-year law enforcement veteran, also worked for the cities of West Sacramento and South San Francisco. Both declined to comment on their candidacy. Horst said he plans to ask them some tough questions. “What works, what doesn’t work and what changes do you have in mind if you become the top cop?” Horst said. “The department has done a terrific job, but good, better, best is my concept. No matter how good you are, we want to get better. We don’t want to say we’ve arrived. I want to make sure the next top cop has that same attitude.” Horst said he hasn’t made a decision on what kind of employment contract to offer the next police chief. If history is an indicator, he or she could expect a jump in pay. According to the city, Siemens’ last full-time contract with the city included a salary of $197,904. Rocklin Police captains make between $105,000 and $134,000, according to the city. Siemens also was given health benefits, a cell phone allowance, deferred compensation and a city-owned Ford Crown Victoria for business and personal use. Right now, Siemens is collecting a pension of $158,101, according to CalPERS. Former Auburn Police Chief and Sierra College Criminal Justice Professor Nick Willick said the fact that the city manager is looking to promote from within says a lot about the morale of the department. “You almost have to have your finger on the pulse to know which way to go,” Willick said. “Often times when they do hire outside, it’s because the rank in file would like to see that. I have seen it where they’ve hired outside when there are qualified people inside and that’s caused some morale issues.” John Nobel, a spokesperson for the Rocklin Police Officers Association, the union that represents the officers, would not comment on the state of morale in the department, but said they are working together to find Siemens’ replacement. “We are happy to work with the city to find the best possible candidate to serve as the next Chief of Police for the city of Rocklin,” Nobel said. The police department has weathered the great recession despite overtime reductions, freezing vacant staff positions and program cut backs. “That’s a vote of confidence in your police department that there are people on staff that can take over the department,” Willick said. Even so, Horst said if he doesn’t like what he sees within the next few weeks, he could opt to hire a consultant to locate an outside candidate. “You have to look at the total package – the education, their experience, their background and their other areas of service,” Horst said. “If we go through this internal process and I feel that the candidate in-house is not, for some reason, not totally qualified then I won’t hesitate to look elsewhere.” If that happens, Horst admits he’ll have to select an interim chief until a search can be completed. “It may get to that but initially I’m looking in-house,” Horst said. “The selection process is on-going with anticipation that an internal candidate will emerge as the next Rocklin Police Chief.”