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Winter Drops Out of Police Chief Race, Citing “Contentious” Election Impact on Police Department

On Friday, Santa Clara Police Department Assistant Police Chief Dan Winter dropped out of the race for Police Chief, citing potential damage to the Police Department that could be caused by what is already promising to be a contentious and venomous campaign.

“Since Chief Sellers announced his retirement,” Winter wrote to his colleagues, “I have heard from many of you. A consistent theme of those conversations has been the concern of our department going through two potentially contentious elections in one year. 

“An election can hurt relationships,” he continued, “cause tension in the workplace, and lead to more stress in an already demanding occupation. I do not want an election to be a distraction from our mission of providing quality police service to the public.”


Winter wrote that he did not come to this decision lightly and appreciated the support of his colleagues as he made this “difficult” decision. “Your kind words have meant a lot to me.”

Winter will continue to serve as Assistant Chief of Police for Santa Clara and remained “committed to the Santa Clara Police Department, the City, and this community,” he concluded. 

“It will continue to be my goal to ensure our personnel are the best trained, best equipped, and most professional law enforcement personnel in the country,” and remained “a premier law enforcement agency that cares deeply about its employees and the City it serves.”

On Sept. 9, following Chief Mike Sellers’ retirement announcement, the Santa Clara City Council decided not to appoint someone to the Police Chief role. Instead, they decided that the residents will elect their Police Chief twice — once in March 2020 and again in November 2020. The only other name that has been mentioned in the Police Chief race is Santa Clara Police Lt. Pat Nikolai, former Santa Clara Police Officers’ Association President.


  1. Grant L. McCauley 4 years ago

    I am deeply saddened by the news that Assistant Police Chief Dan Winter is dropping out of the race for our Police Chief. As a member of the Police Chief Advisory Committee I have seen, first hand, the knowledge, dedication and integrity of Dan Winter.
    Santa Clara was just named one the top 50 safest cities in the country. It is because of our Police Department and the current leadership. Two elections in one year is an unnecessary expense in both money and the loss of a highly qualified candidate. This is all due to the ongoing friction among our current City Council over personality clashes. They are costing us dearly when a simple vote by them would have saved us all.
    There has to be a better and more efficient resolution.

  2. Stewart Hill 4 years ago

    As a retired Firefighter with 34 years experience from the City of Palo Alto, and I live here in Santa Clara, and having worked in a previous city that had a council, I am wondering why the City Council here is being archaic in having us as residents vote for a new Police Chief. Most Cities promote from within because there upper level Officers have been working in positions of Deputy Police Chiefs or in another position that would prepare them for this next leadership position. The Santa Clara Police Department and most city police departments are similar to how Fire Departments work. Most Fire Department Chiefs are promoted from within IF they have the experience and necessary education.
    You, our city council, should already know what type of Police Chief YOU want. I am pretty sure your officers know what they want to see in a new leader. The majority of our citizens will not have any clue as to what type of person should be the Chief. Most residents do not understand how Police and Fire Departments operate or understand Command Structure. You guys are the ones who should know and you do have the right stuff currently working there. If the majority of all the other Police Departments in the 9 Bay Area Counties can operate by conducting tests that include interviewing, maybe a written test and of course background checks and either select from within or outside, then why can’t you Our City Council do that. That’s why you were elected. Keep politics out of important Public Safety Positions such as Police Chiefs and Fire Chiefs positions. I do believe though that the Fire Chiefs position is not voted on by the public but is a promotional position from within and overseen possibly by the City Manager and Council.
    So if you really want the best applicant who will be upstanding, professional, EXPERIENCED in police work, maybe even from our own police department then get rid of this backwards voting for a police chief and you, Mr. and Mrs. City Council ask for input from our citizens if that is necessary and then test and appoint hopefully from within if you think our police department has what we need. I believe we do.
    Thank You.

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