In June, Santa Clara reorganized its police department command staff, adding an additional assistant police chief to the budget and leaving one of the four captains’ positions vacant.
Longtime Santa Clara Police Department (SCPD) veterans Captains Wahid Kazem and Derek Rush were promoted to the assistant chief positions. Sources close to City Hall, who aren’t authorized to talk to the press, report Police Chief Patrick Nikolai no longer participates in City executive leadership team meetings. Chief Nikolai ran unopposed for his partial term in the March 2020 election. He is up for reelection in November 2020.
While the Police Chief, an elected position, heads the department, the City Manager is responsible for compliance with civil service regulations, budget, contracts, administrative and policy-setting authority, Santa Clara PIO Lenka Wright explained in an email.
“The command staff, including the two assistant chiefs and the three captains, report to the Chief of Police as well as the City Manager and hold their positions at the discretion of the City Manager. Signing authority for the department is held by both Assistant Chiefs.” Previously the Chief held signing authority for the department.
Before Levi’s Stadium opened the City had three captains. The fourth was added specifically to manage stadium police operations.
“This new structure works to stabilize succession planning within the department, which has been a desired focus for quite some time,” City Manager Deanna Santana wrote in a memo to the City Council.
“Given that we anticipate structural changes driven by new leadership, service priorities, and fiscal realities. It is important to note that these assignments and the department’s structure will continue to change to align to service goals and fiscal resources.”
The 2020 budget still has a vacant captain slot, although because the position isn’t filled, the salary increases add only about $125,000 to the City budget. If that captain slot were filled, the total budget increase would be about $500,000. These increases won’t affect the City’s CalPERS liability because these salaries top the $280,000 ceiling for pensionable salary.
As far as The Weekly has been able to determine, this is the first time the City has had more than one assistant chief.
More Santa Clara Salary Leadership
Santa Clara had the top two highest police captain salaries in California in 2019 — $277,288 and $254,571 — and three of the top ten. Santa Clara also has the state’s single most highly compensated police caption — $617,432.
In 2019 Santa Clara had the highest assistant police chief salary and total compensation in the state — $515,315. The 2020 assistant police chief salary was increased by $18,000.
Currently Santa Clara also has the highest police chief base salary — $313,692, an increase of $6,000 from the previous police chief’s — but not the most highly compensated.
As of 2019, that distinction goes to Gardena,* — $541,092 . Vallejo — currently roiled by controversy about police misconduct — came in number two at $529,528. Santa Clara’s total police chief compensation was number three at $526,978.
*We excluded obvious retirement lump sums, which include cashed out sick leave and vacation. When former Chief Mike Sellers retired, he had never taken a sick day in 30 years, and, consequently, had a lump sum settlement for that unused sick leave.