In a terse resignation letter, acting Police Chief Scott LaCosse made his departure from the Twin Rivers school police force official Wednesday, nearly eight months after he signed on to reform the troubled department.
LaCosse and Lt. Mike Sales gave the district 30 days' notice after school trustees voted 4-2 with one abstention on Tuesday night to reinstate the services of the district's police dog, Jag.
Last week, LaCosse and Sales had threatened to quit if they weren't allowed to make changes they say are needed, including discontinuing the K-9 program.
"This wasn't a bluff," LaCosse said.
The implications of LaCosse and Sales leaving have some wondering whether the Police Department will continue to see the same kind of progress that came under the highly regarded pair.
Before coming to Twin Rivers, LaCosse had retired from the Sacramento Police Department, while Sales had retired from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.
"I don't know a reasonable person who would want to step into that job to make the corrections needed, not after seeing what these two fellas went through," said former grand jury foreman Don Prange Sr., who led two investigations into the Twin Rivers district. "They have to get that place straightened out."
LaCosse and Sales briefly discontinued the district's K-9 program last week, saying the use of a police dog was out of line with the revised mission of the school police force and created a liability issue. They were concerned about the dog biting a student in a tense situation.
LaCosse cited numerous local police executives who agreed with that assessment, including Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones and Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel.
However, Twin Rivers school board members, particularly Michael Baker, insisted that the elimination of the K-9 program should be a board decision.
Trustee Linda Fowler said trustees voted last year to create a K-9 program and therefore a decision on its elimination should be handled in the same manner.
Jag, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois, mostly works a night shift with his handler, Officer Arlin Kocher.
Jag supporters pleaded during Tuesday's meeting for Twin Rivers trustees to continue the police dog program. After two hours of discussion and comments, trustees Bob Bastian and Cortez Quinn, along with Fowler and Baker, voted to return Jag to the department, while Rebecca Sandoval and John Dexter voted against it. Trustee Walter Garcia Kawamoto abstained.
"Judging by the emails and phone calls, the community wants the dog to stay," Baker said. "I think the district lost a really good police chief, but, ultimately, we are responsible to the community and what they want . I've met the dog. My 6-year-old son has met the dog. I would lock my son in a room with that dog for an hour and not have any concerns about it."
The dog's handler, Kocher, is the president of the Police Officers Association. Because of his conflict, he hasn't spoken publicly on the issue.
Twin Rivers POA past President William Cho, who previously was the department's public relations officer, did not specifically address the use of the K-9 program, but instead claimed LaCosse and Sales had created a hostile work environment.
Cho said morale has never been worse than under the current administration. Cho defended the previous administration, which was rebuked by the grand jury and is the subject of an ongoing Sacramento police investigation.
"We will no longer tolerate this treatment," said Cho.
LaCosse countered by saying Cho has been disgruntled since he was returned to a patrol shift and stripped of being the department's spokesman.
LaCosse said the Twin Rivers police force has operated in the red over the years and used towing revenue to address shortfalls.
The district's towing program had riled portions of the district and has since been curtailed. LaCosse said some of the money raised by the towing fees had paid for the K-9 program.
Trustee Dexter said LaCosse and Sales did a "great job in a short time turning the Police Department around." Dexter, who voted against reinstating Jag, said he supported his fellow board members, who he said were listening to their constituents.
"I didn't know if it's a set- back, but we will be in limbo until we have someone come in," Dexter said. "(LaCosse) has set a vision for what the department wants to be.
"The board and everyone in the community agrees with the direction we are going in terms of (police being) school resource officers, not patrol officers. Now that he set the road map, we need someone who can follow through."
The board ran out of time during Tuesday's meeting to vote on whether to cut ties with its current outside legal counsel. Twin Rivers is considering Fagen Friedman and Fulfrost LLP to replace Timothy M. Cary and Associates.
The board moved that discussion and potential vote to next Tuesday's meeting.