After more than seven months of head-hunting, Sacramento County is finally poised to refill its long-vacant Office of Inspector General with a familiar face: former Sacramento city police Chief Rick Braziel.
Braziel’s appointment was due for a procedural vote Tuesday morning. If approved as expected, he would take over an office that’s charged with monitoring the sheriff’s department, the largest law enforcement agency in the region.
This watchdog role has been unfilled going on three years.
Former Inspector General Lee Dean resigned in early 2013. The county briefly looked for a replacement, but ceased its search after being unable to find local candidates, a spokeswoman previously told SN&R. Instead, the spokeswoman said a law firm was contracted to field citizen complaints to the OIG’s tip line.
Only that tip line didn’t work and resulted in zero complaints being recorded over a two-year period, even as aggrieved community members voiced their concerns to local organizations and in civil and federal lawsuits against the sheriff’s department.
Two years after it stopped looking for a new inspector general, the county re-started its recruitment process following an SN&R report that uncovered these issues.
The nationwide recruitment effort winnowed 40 letters of interest down to 13 candidates, seven of whom were interviewed by Sheriff Scott Jones and board of supervisors Chairman Phil Serna. They selected two candidates, who went on to interview with selected community members and the department’s management and deputy associations.
Braziel’s expected appointment was praised by his counterpart at the city of Sacramento. Francine Tournour is the director of the Sacramento Office of Public Safety and Accountability, which monitors the city’s police and fire departments. She called Braziel “very smart” and said he will serve as a good liaison between the community and sheriff’s department.
Braziel resigned from the Sacramento Police Department in 2012 following a four-year stint as chief. He went into consulting the next year, joining the Police Foundation as an executive fellow. In that role, he co-authored critical incident assessments of the shootout between bank robbers and Stockton police that killed a hostage, and about how to improve the quality of policing in St. Louis, Mo.
Despite the title, the inspector general is not tasked with doing actual investigations into alleged misconduct. It serves as more of an independent overseer—fielding calls from the public, monitoring sheriff’s department investigations into their complaints and writing annual reports that make recommendations to the department. A county staff report describes “broad oversight powers,” but also highlights the limits of the position’s authority.
The inspector general can mediate disputes between community members and the sheriff’s department, but only upon invitation by the sheriff. The I.G. can also interview or re-interview complainants and witnesses “in exceptional cases.”
If his appointment is approved, Braziel will take over the office on December 1. His contract is worth $120,000 for one year, with the county having the option to renew the agreement for four additional years. As an independent contractor, he is ineligible to receive medical or retirement benefits.