The Santa Ana Police Union issued a “vote of no confidence” against Santa Ana Police Chief David Valentin on Sept. 1 after what the city described as a months-long political and personal attack against the chief by the union’s president.
“For over a year, the Santa Ana Police Officers Association (SAPOA) has requested the City Council and City Administrators respond to complaints of workplace mistreatment, harassment, retaliation, favoritism, alleged criminal behavior and lack of leadership,” a statement from the union said.
“The Santa Ana Police Officers Association, Board of Directors unanimously voted to ask its members if they had confidence in Chief David Valentin’s ability to lead the police department. The result is that the majority have voted ‘NO CONFIDENCE’ in his ability to lead the Santa Ana Police Department!”
According to the statement, 54 percent of the 275 sworn police officers and 78 non-sworn employees voted no confidence in Valentin. In total, 83 percent of sworn police officers and 45 percent of civilian staff cast a ballot for the vote.
“An organization that has NO confidence in its leadership is severely limited in carrying out its mission,” the statement reads. “The police department’s men and women are highly trained competent professionals laboring under a misguided and ineffective administration.”
In response to the vote of no confidence, the city said the election only comes as the result of the union’s president, Gerry Serrano, when he allegedly took inappropriate action after the city wouldn’t give him another city job in order to increase his pension.
According to Transparent California, a website that tracks public employee salaries, Serrano made $290,589 in base pay in 2019, and $504,846 in total pay with benefits.
Serrano said in an email that if he didn’t get the second city job, he would “burn the City down,” and bring the no-confidence vote against Valentin, the city’s statement said. Valentin placed Serrano on administrative leave Aug. 27.
Serrano said the no-confidence vote is “his way of burning the city down,” the city wrote, noting the public must understand that the vote is only a result of Santa Ana holding Serrano accountable for his actions, inappropriate influence, and intimidation of city staff.
In response to the vote of no confidence, which doesn’t require any action by the city, Valentin, who has been with the department for 31 years and chief since 2018, said he will refuse to let it distract from the department’s mission to protect and serve the city.
“I will diligently and effectively continue to lead the dedicated women and men of this department, in service to the 340,000 residents of Santa Ana,” Valentin said. “This unwarranted vote does not, and will not in any way, distract, disturb or deter me and the members of this department from effectively delivering public safety services to the needs of the community we have been sworn to serve.”
Santa Ana City Manager Kristine Ridge said she was disappointed that Serrano would lead a vote in the interest of personal financial gain.
“The Police Officers Association’s vote today is hardly an overwhelming display of opposition to Chief Valentin, but it is a sad day for the POA membership,” Ridge said. “It’s disappointing that the POA president’s desire for personal financial gain and use of misinformation have led to a vote that is not in the best interest of our police officers.”
“I’m confident that in the future, the truth about these misstatements will come out. … I have complete faith in Chief Valentin’s leadership. I hope that we can move forward, heal the Santa Ana Police Department and focus on serving the residents of Santa Ana,” she said.
The chief also received the support of Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento, who said he fully supports Valentin.
“Although I respect our officers’ opinions, and their right to collectively bargain for wages, benefits and workplace conditions, only the City Manager has the responsibility to decide who fills this essential public safety role,” Sarmiento said.
“Police Chief Valentin has my full support and confidence. The community should rest assured that our police department will continue to operate professionally and ethically despite distractions that stem from a personal, rather than structural, problem.”