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Rohnert Park Police Chief to Retire Amid Questions Over Seized Marijuana and Cash

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A Rohnert Park police squad car. (Sukey Lewis/KQED)

Brian Masterson, who has served as the director of Rohnert Park’s Public Safety Department for nearly a decade, is retiring next month. In an email to city staff earlier this week, he wrote that it was a difficult decision, but that he and his wife want to spend more time traveling and with their family.

“While I will say the last 10 years have not been easy,” Masterson wrote. “They have been challenging as well as rewarding and we have accomplished many things together to improve the quality of life for our residents here in Rohnert Park.”

Masterson’s announcement comes as his department faces increasing scrutiny over an asset and marijuana seizure program. In April, the city launched an internal investigation into a suspicious traffic stop that took place in December. Two officers, Sgt. Jacy Tatum and his partner, Joseph Huffaker, were placed on leave.

In June, KQED reported about a series of questionable seizures made by Rohnert Park Public Safety officers during traffic stops conducted 40 miles north of the city along Highway 101. Then on June 22, Assistant City Manager Don Schwartz told KQED that Tatum was no longer employed by the city.

In the letter announcing his resignation, Masterson did not directly address the internal investigation or the scrutiny of his department.

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“There are many challenges ahead but I know that ... the leadership of the City Council and our City Manager will see us through,” he wrote. “I feel fortunate and blessed to have served with all of you and the members of Public Safety.”

Masterson did not reply to KQED’s request for comment.

Rohnert Park City Councilman Jake Mackenzie said he takes the public safety director's retirement announcement at face value, and that he is sorry that Masterson will no longer be heading the city’s police force. Mackenzie would not comment on the internal investigation or the aggressive asset seizure program that pulled in more than $1 million in 2015 and 2016 for the city’s Public Safety Department.

“This is a matter that will be discussed in closed session at some point in time. It's a matter that is the responsibility of the city manager and the city attorney,” Mackenzie said. “And while the city may eventually, you know, have to deal with legal matters, at the moment that is not something that I can comment about.”

City Manager Darrin Jenkins did not respond to KQED’s request for an interview, but in an email he did commend Masterson for his service to the city.

“During his time here we achieved the lowest crime rates in the modern history of the City, successfully mitigated the impacts of the opening of a nearby casino, grew the city's traffic enforcement unit, created a community oriented problem solving unit, implemented body worn cameras, upgraded our fire and police vehicles, and brought crime analysis and data based policing to our agency,” he wrote.

Jenkins wrote he would be hiring an interim director while the city begins the recruiting process for a new person to head the department.

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