Santa Rosa Police Chief Rainer Navarro will be retiring in May, city officials announced.
Navarro began with SRPD in 1992 and was selected as chief in 2019.
His tenure oversaw the COVID-19 pandemic and the Glass Fire. He is credited with forming the Chief’s Community Ambassador Team (C-CAT), implementing the city’s Community Empowerment Plan, and restoring the police auditor role for independent oversight.
Navarro also oversaw the department during the violent George Floyd protests of 2020 in which five protesters said they were injured by police officers who allegedly used tear gas and projectiles against them. The city eventually settled with the protesters for $1.9 million, plus attorney’s fees.
U.S. District Judge Vince Chabria laid the actions of officers during the protests on the shoulders of Chief Navarro.
“When the department is executing an organized department-wide response,” he wrote, “one can presume that the police chief was in control of his department, either directing that response himself or — at the very least — ratifying the actions of his subordinates.”
“Chief Navarro has set the bar high working with and engaging the community and has positioned the department to be more transparent and more accessible moving forward.”City Manager Maraskeshia Smith
Attorney Izaak Schwaiger was involved with two lawsuits against the Santa Rosa Police Department during Navarro’s tenure, but he had praise for the chief.
“The chief led the department through some challenging times, and he did so with dignity,” said Schwaiger. “We did not always see eye to eye, but he was a man committed to improving the force and I wish him the best in his retirement.”
City Manager Maraskeshia Smith called Navarro “progressive” and “thoughtful.”
“He has been steadfast and compassionate through some of the most tumultuous times for policing,” she said. “Chief Navarro has set the bar high working with and engaging the community and has positioned the department to be more transparent and more accessible moving forward.”
Navarro’s legacy includes creating the Department Operations Center and Special Enforcement Team to address emergencies and violent crime.
Capt. John Cregan has been appointed as interim chief until a new one is selected, according to the city. The recruitment and selection process for a new permanent chief is expected to take several months.