Siemens ‘satisfied’ with police department’s growth

Despite recent controversies, retiring police chief behind positive changes in 10 years
By: Jon Brines, The Placer Herald
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When retiring Police Chief Mark Siemens came to Rocklin in July 2001, the police department was a very different place. “They took office space and built it into a police department,” Siemens said. The police headquarters was in the back of Fire Station No. 1 on Rocklin Road with a small jail cell. “We had one little cage to put (an inmate) inside,” Siemens said. “It was a pretty sad state of affairs as the police department goes.” Siemens said he wanted to take on the challenge. “I saw it as a great challenge,” Siemens said. “Building the (new police) facility peaked my interest. When I came here, I had a 10-year plan. We had to build a building and work on the organizational culture.” Siemens graduated from the police academy No. 2 in his class in September 1981 and joined the Marysville Police Department where he rose to the rank of Captain in 1993. He took over as chief in 1996 and served in a dual role as chief and city manager in 1998. Siemens talks about the earlier days in Rocklin during a high-growth period as very positive for the department and teamwork. “Those were the glory days,” he said. “So during the first four years of my tenure, we spent considerable time on designing and working through the construction of our current facility.” Siemens oversaw the construction of the multi-million dollar, 42,000-square-foot police station dedicated in June 2005. It included an indoor tactical firing range, dispatch center, two private and one group holding cells, a small evidence lab and a multipurpose Emergency Operations Center room. “The rifle range has just about paid for itself,” Siemens said. The range allows officers to stay sharp while reducing the cost of ongoing training. Siemens was instrumental in the development of the Tri-City SWAT team, Regional Auto Theft Task Force and award-winning traffic enforcement unit and the ever-growing and recognized police volunteer program. Since 2001, Rocklin’s crime rate has stayed consistently low and below the state average. According to police statistics, in 2001, Rocklin had a total of 896 reported property and violent crimes. In 2010, that number was 1,305. In that time, Rocklin’s population increased by 15,000. City Councilman Brett Storey said Siemens has created a professional police organization second to none in the region. “The crime statistics speak for themselves as we are consistently No. 1 or 2 in the lowest rate of crimes in California,” Storey said. “Mark has been able to do more with less because of his abilities, his targeted hiring and promotion of quality individuals. He has made Rocklin Police Department a true team organization. We are proud to have hired him and had his expertise with us.” As Siemens retires from Rocklin at 52, he said he wanted to finish his career by re-accrediting the department with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc., something only 5 percent of the nation’s law enforcement agencies have earned. CALEA certifies agencies worldwide for employing the best practices of policing. Rocklin Police Department was originally accredited in 2008 with a successful re-accreditation last week. Little has been made public on how citizens and officers rate Siemens leadership. In a 2002 morale project, the police department surveyed officers and found high marks for Siemens in the areas of trust, accountability and setting an example for the department. By 2007 when the Rocklin Police Officers Association conducted a state of morale in the department survey of sworn and non-sworn officers, the results were not as positive. On the statement that “he was fair and equal in his treatment of all employees” 51 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed while another third was neutral on answering the question. The last citizens survey by the department had a similar take on Siemens’ department. In 2008, the department released its annual citizens survey and found 97 percent of those surveyed were very or somewhat satisfied with the effectiveness of police in dealing with crime in neighborhoods. Siemens’ career at Rocklin has not been without controversy. Right now, two lawsuits from one current and two former Rocklin officers are making their way through the court system alleging various civil rights violations involving the chief. Siemens’ attorney said each suit is without merit. In his final year as chief, Siemens was actually officially retired in the state pension program. He was one of five top managers who were offered a controversial early retirement deal that hired him back on a contract basis at half time with no benefits to give the city salary savings. Siemens took home his $158,101 CalPERS pension plus an estimated $91,334 in city contract pay, an employment practice known as double dipping. Former colleague and Auburn Police Chief Nick Willick said Rocklin citizens should focus on how Siemens transformed the Rocklin Police Department. “The chief has done an excellent job,” Willick said. “He did a lot to modernize that department.” Siemens said Rocklin Police Department’s accomplishments have exceeded his own expectations. “I’m satisfied to where we’ve come,” Siemens said. “We’ve excelled a little beyond what I thought we could do in 10 years. All and all, getting the re-accreditation finished is the cap stone for me.” Rocklin City Manager Rick Horst announced Wednesday that Ronald Lawrence has been named Rocklin’s new police chief, effective April 1. ----------- Rocklin Police Chief Mark Siemens’ pay history Age: 52 Annual compensation: Pension: $158,101 2010: $91,334 (or $95.14 per hour) 2008: $197,904 2007: $179,500 Source: City of Rocklin and CalPERS