New Sacramento police chief Somers sworn in

Published: Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 - 9:00 am

As Sam Somers Jr. prepared to be sworn in Friday as chief of police, Sacramento City Manager John Shirey did not sugarcoat the heavy burden about to be shouldered.

"People will be watching you all the time," Shirey told Somers. "When things go right, you're not necessarily going to get the credit. When things don't necessarily go well, believe me, you'll get the blame."

And just to underscore the point, Shirey added – only half-jokingly – that sometimes he'd be the one on the other end of the line, taking Somers to task.

Still, Somers was undeterred. A 29-year veteran of the Sacramento Police Department, Somers took the oath of honor before a standing-room-only crowd in City Council chambers.

He said he was humbled and excited by the opportunity.

"When you're growing up, you never thought about being a part of history," said Somers, 50. "To be Sacramento's 44th chief of police is really an honor I cannot describe."

Somers' badge and stars were pinned by his parents – his father, Sam Somers Sr., is a retired Sacramento police captain – and his three daughters.

Hired by the department in 1984, Somers rose through the ranks and has served in every major division. Until recently, he was the most senior deputy chief and supervised field operations.

Shirey chose Somers from a pool of four candidates, all from within the department.

During the ceremony, Shirey praised Somers for his experience and years of preparation for his new role. His advice for the new chief was to "always do the right thing."

"There are going to be a lot of times it's not obvious," Shirey said. "But you'll never go wrong if you always do the right thing."

Somers spoke about several goals for his tenure, including building trust in and relationships with the community and partnering with local law enforcement leaders to address crime on a regional level.

He also praised his staff. "I know the fantastic and amazing, creative and heroic men and women I have in the Sacramento Police Department," he said. "It really isn't about platitudes. It's about the people."

Somers inherits a department that has lost 150 officers from a height of 800 in 2008, when his predecessor, Rick Braziel, became chief. In announcing his December retirement, Braziel said he felt the department had weathered the worst of the budget crisis and that it was time for a new chief to rebuild.

This summer, the department will run its first sponsored academy class in years, and is expected to hire as many as 50 new officers who will be on the streets by year's end.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Kim Minugh

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