Crime - Sacto 911

Former top Sacramento cop Rick Braziel to oversee county Sheriff’s Department

Former Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel says the Pledge of Allegiance before a Sac City school meeting. January 17, 2013.
Former Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel says the Pledge of Allegiance before a Sac City school meeting. January 17, 2013. jvillegas@sacbee.com

Former Sacramento police Chief Rick Braziel has been tapped to fill the vacant job of inspector general for Sacramento County, county officials announced Tuesday.

The inspector general’s office, which had been vacant, oversees investigations of citizen complaints about the Sheriff’s Department, and can also recommend changes in the way the department is run.

Braziel said one of his first priorities will be focusing on the use of force by sheriff’s deputies.

Braziel retired in December 2012 after 33 years with the Sacramento Police Department.

Since then, he has worked as a consultant. He was a member of a team that prepared a Department of Justice report on police handling of the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014. As an executive fellow with the Police Foundation, he also was a member of a team that conducted an assessment of the St. Louis County Police Department.

Phil Serna, chairman of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, said Tuesday that one of his priorities as board chairman was to fill the inspector general’s position to help meet the goal of public transparency and accountability related to the Sheriff’s Department.

The board established the office in 2007 and executed a contract with Lee Dean in October of that year. Dean served until 2013. A subsequent search to fill the post was unsuccessful. The latest search drew 13 qualified applicants familiar with the region. The two finalists were interviewed by two panels, one including community members from each of the county supervisorial districts and the other consisting of representatives of the law enforcement management and deputy sheriffs associations, he said.

Serna said Braziel brings experience in law enforcement and community relations to the position.

Sheriff Scott Jones said he welcomes the independent oversight of his department, saying “not only the how, but the perception of how we do things” is important. Areas of focus, he said, will include the use of force, officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths.

As a contract employee, the inspector general provides independent oversight of Sheriff’s Department’s operations and serves as liaison to the public to ensure objectivity and fairness during investigations, county officials said.

Braziel said his main office will be in the county’s IT building, near the Sheriff’s Department in downtown Sacramento, but he plans to spend much of his time in satellite offices at community centers in the various supervisorial districts.

County officials said the contract agreement provides for annual payment of $120,000. In anticipation of filling the position, appropriations totaling $100,000 were included in the county’s adopted budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Braziel said he will be a staff of one, conducting investigations and preparing reports. His contacts with organizations like the Police Foundation, he said, allow him to draw on expertise and experiences of colleagues in communities nationwide. He noted, for example, that the Dallas Police Department has seen a significant drop in use-of-force complaints.

Braziel said he intends to keep the public and law enforcement updated on the progress of investigations, saying the findings in a final report shouldn’t take anyone by surprise.

“I have a ‘no ambush’ rule,” he said. “I don’t want to say, ‘I got you.’ ”

Braziel will assume his duties Dec. 1. Information on the Office of Inspector General is available at www.inspectorgeneral.saccounty.net or by calling 916-876-4371.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy

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