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Promotions and politics in the RPD

on October 12, 2010

This past Friday Chief Chris Magnus of the Richmond Police Department announced the upcoming promotions of two high-ranking officers. On November 1st Cpt. Allwyn Brown will be promoted to the department’s second Deputy Chief position and Lt. Mark Gagan will be promoted to the rank of Captain. The deputy chief position has been frozen since 2007, when then Deputy Chief, Lori Ritter, retired from the department.

“Both Allwyn and Mark have strong connections to the community and considerable experience in policing,” wrote Chief Magnus in an email sent throughout the department. “They have both been steadfast advocates of effective approaches to crime-fighting, while playing key roles in the Department’s community policing efforts.”

The upper management promotions come after recent moves by the department to bolster its rank and file. In September the department swore in six new officers, bringing the force’s total to 193. In the past five years the police department has increased the number of sworn officers by 33 percent—up from 145 in 2005.

Next year, the base salary for an entry-level police officer in Richmond will be $91,104. This exceeds starting salaries for officers in big cities across California including San Jose—$80,640, San Francisco—$79,716, Oakland—$71,841, and Los Angeles—$45,226. These figures don’t include overtime pay or benefits.

“The city manager and the city council have made public safety a priority,” said Lt. Gagan, currently still a spokesman for the department. Gagan said city hall has been receptive to the department’s needs and that the budget, “has been passed with what we’ve requested, and I know that’s not true for other departments.”

Despite city hall’s support for the police department’s financial needs, the relationship between the department and the mayor herself is more complicated. Last week the police union for officers and sergeants—the Richmond Police Officers Association—launched a coordinated political attack with Firefighters Local 188 against Mayor McLaughlin.

The two unions held a press conference last Tuesday—exactly one month before Election Day—to call the voters’ attention to previously unreleased information about McLaughlin’s past. They also announced the launching of a new website and ad campaign focused against the mayor’s reelection. The unions highlighted McLaughlin’s 2001 bankruptcy and history of depression as reasons to question her ability to serve as mayor.

Soon to be Police Captain, Mark Gagan and son, Kieran. As captain, Gagan will be responsible for the city's Central District. (Courtesy photo)

Lt. Gagan, a member of the Richmond Police Managers Association—the union for higher-ranking officers at the department, expressed no personal or organizational discontent with the current mayor or any members of the city council. “Our association is actually designed just to ensure that the work conditions for the lieutenants and captains are the best,” said Lt. Gagan. “We have not endorsed any candidates and are not involved in the political landscape.”

Chief Magnus also created some distance with the Richmond Police Officers Association. Responding to another Richmond Confidential article published Monday, Magnus commented, “The political views and tactics of the RPOA-PAC do not represent the views of the Richmond Police Dept.”

Magnus went on to apologize for fallout within the community. “I share the view that this political tactic has harmed our relationship with the mental health community and others–and for that, I am very sorry,” he wrote.

In recent days a grassroots, online petition—called the Call for Clean Richmond Campaigns—surfaced in response to the police and firefighter unions’ attack against the mayor. The petition, started by Richmond resident Felix Hunziker, calls on political groups to halt personal attacks against the candidates and to focus on their records instead.

“Richmond is our home, not their political playground,” the petition says in closing, “…and we will hold those who continue to sow discord accountable.” The petition has already collected more than 100 signatures.

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