By Robert Haugh
Police Chief Mike Sellers resigned and won’t finish his term. He sent an email to the police department yesterday saying he’s stepping down on September 1, 2019. (Thanks to multiple sources for sending it our way).
Sellers was vague about his reasons.
In his email, he only said “it is time to shift my priorities and focus on my health and my family.”
Local leaders believe that part of Sellers’ motivation is to try to give his hand-picked successor a leg up for the election. Sellers would be up for re-election in November 2020.
The Assistant Chief is Dan Winter. City Hall sources believe he will run for police chief next year. Winter is considered a close ally of Sellers.
Sellers retires as a controversial police chief. The police department’s morale is considered really, really low because of Sellers and Winter. Some insiders say that Sellers has been Santa Clara’s worst police chief in recent memory.
Here are some of the history-making things that happened on Sellers’ watch:
In 2016, his department voted “no confidence” in Sellers. That’s the first time that’s ever happened in Santa Clara history.
Sellers won his re-election in 2016 by a razor-thin margin. It’s the closest election in Santa Clara history.
In 2017, Santa Clara paid $8.7 million in police department settlements. That’s the most in Santa Clara history.
He was asked to resign by a Mercury News columnist. That’s also a first.
In 2018, Sellers spiked his pension. He’s also one of the highest paid police chiefs in California.
But later that year, the Council wouldn’t let him increase his benefits. That was another first.
Santa Clara is the only city in California to elect a police chief. Mission City residents seem to like that fact. But because of Sellers’ performance, there’s been some talk at City Hall about changing it. That would require a Charter change and a vote of the people.
But the smart money is on an election to pick the next chief. That could happen in March 2020, November 2020, or a special election.
After Sellers steps down, the Council may appoint an acting chief with a four-fifths vote. That person could be from inside or outside the department.
This a developing story that we’ll continue to follow.