Art Campos Bee Staff Writer December 12, 2000, Tuesday METRO FINAL EDITION Copyright 2000 McClatchy Newspapers, Inc. Sacramento Bee December 12, 2000, Tuesday METRO FINAL EDITION
(ROCKLIN, Calif.) -- Rocklin Police Chief Gary Prince, under criticism in recent years for a perceived lack of communication skills with some of his officers, is retiring.
The 55-year-old Prince, who has been Rocklin's chief for nearly eight years, will leave the department Dec. 30.
Former Roseville Police Chief Thomas Simms will serve as interim chief while Rocklin officials seek a permanent replacement.
Prince, a 32-year veteran of law enforcement, said Monday that his decision to retire from the $97,000-a-year job was based on wanting to spend more time with his family.
"I have four kids ranging in age from 13 to 1," he said. "We're going to try to have some fun as a family."
Prince said he's been at retirement age for five years and was in a position to make slightly more money by retiring than to remain on the job.
In recent years, Prince had been under increasing criticism. The Rocklin Police Officers Association indicated in a 1997 survey that the chief lacked communication skills.
The survey led the city to hire a consultant to help improve relations between Prince and his officers. But the expenditure of $32,471 for two years of training was questioned by two local businessmen, who complained of dwindling morale among the police officers.
More recently, the Placer County grand jury has been investigating the Police Department over undisclosed matters.
Prince said none of those controversies had anything to do with his retirement.
"Not at all," he said. "I'm proud of the men and women in this department. We've done some great things and I'm assuming the new chief will come in and continue that."
City Manager Carlos Urrutia said he was disappointed to see Prince retire.
"In spite of the things you may have read about him, Gary is a good chief and a decent human being," Urrutia said. "Over the past year, I've been pleased that he hasn't retired - and I was surprised that he hadn't retired."
"I'm sorry to see him go," said Mayor Peter Hill. "I think he's done a good job."
John Brophy, a Rocklin-based real estate agent and a major critic of Prince, said he is happy to see the chief retire.
"He's right in the middle of these investigations because of his mismanagement," Brophy said. "I'm almost certain he's leaving because of the pressure."
He said morale within the Police Department was "at an all-time low."
"Under Prince, the department has been like a rudderless ship drifting aimlessly in the middle of the ocean," Brophy said.
Brophy and Roger Grissom, another businessman, have complained that eight officers have left Rocklin during Prince's tenure - a high number, they contend, for a department with 38 officers.
"We'll never be able to regain the experience we lost when those officers left," Brophy said, blaming Prince and his management style for the departures.
Prince said last June that he didn't feel he was the reason the officers left.
"People leave for personal and professional reasons," he said. "I hope they are leaving to better themselves.
Urrutia said the city had not received any formal grievances against Prince.
"The department has run smoothly," he said. "Gary has run within the budget and he keeps me informed. He does all the things I expect a chief to do."
About the grand jury probe, Prince said the panel has asked for statistical data. He wouldn't say what was specifically requested but said, "It covers a broad range."
Before taking the Rocklin job, Prince spent five years as police chief in Corcoran. He also served as a police lieutenant in Indio and as a sergeant in San Carlos.
In his Rocklin tenure, Prince created the Community Oriented Police Unit, reorganized the department to address future growth and expanded the city's Neighborhood Watch Program.
He also created the Citizens Awareness Academy and oversaw the expansion of the police force from 27 officers to its present size.
Simms will take over as interim chief after Jan. 1. Simms headed the Roseville Police Department from 1991 to 1999 and earned a reputation for having a good rapport with his officers.
"With Tom, there will be a seamless transition," Urrutia said. "He's very highly respected."