SRJC police chief put on administrative leave

Jerome Janairo, News Editor

The new police chief at Santa Rosa Junior College has been put on formal administrative leave as of Jan. 21. The decision came after members of the SRJC District Police force approached top SRJC officials with grievances about the chief’s performance and later signed a hostile work environment complaint, according to sources within the SRJC district police.

Police sources said many officers working under Chief Christopher Wilkinson felt they were operating in a “climate of fear,” and that several began searching for employment with other law enforcement agencies.

SRJC Vice President of Business Affairs, Doug Roberts, could not comment on Wilkinson’s administrative leave citing “personnel confidentiality issues”. Two sources within the district police department said the president’s office has instructed department staff not to publicly speak about the issue.

SRJC Emergency Management Coordinator Don Silverek, a veteran police officer for the SRJC district police who retired in fall 2010, said that SRJC officers have told him that they work in “an environment of people looking over each other’s shoulders.”

Silverek said that the officers were “very apprehensive,” especially when talking about Wilkinson.

A source within the SRJC police said that officers were afraid of retribution from the chief. He said that on Jan. 20 the Police Association, a union for SRJC district police, approached top SRJC officials and demanded administrative action regarding Wilkinson, or that they would hold a no-confidence vote. They also signed a hostile work environment complaint at Human Resources the same day.

The same source said some of their problems with Chief Wilkinson stemmed from his “failure to get to know the culture of SRJC and its police department,” and that he didn’t seek input from anyone in the department, making it a “my way or the highway” situation. One example he gave was the chief’s plans to acquire new uniforms and furniture, despite the fact that there was no money for it in the district police budget. However, officers didn’t question Wilkinson’s positions on several issues, fearing they would be “pushed out” of the force.

Silverek said that Wilkinson was doing “too much, too soon and too quick.”

According to Silverek, who worked under Wilkinson during his last months in the police force, Wilkinson’s management style “isn’t working out” for the SRJC police department.

“I don’t think he is a good fit for this college based upon his management style,” he said. “I am sure there is a college university or a police organization where his abilities, expertise and management style would be absolutely welcome, but I just don’t see his management style as an ideal fit here.”

A SRJC district police source said that officers were relieved to hear about Wilkinson’s administrative leave.

Chief Wilkinson was hired in July 2010 as SRJC District Police’s second chief after Terry Stewart retired last spring. The Oak Leaf attempted to reach Wilkinson for comments but calls have not yet been returned.

Wilkinson will continue to be paid his monthly salary of $8,876 and more than $17,000 in benefits.

Previously Wilkinson worked as police chief at Yuba Community College. Al Alt, Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services at Yuba Community College said, that Wilkinson “did a great job as Chief of Police,” and that the college “will be glad to have him back.”