Leaders in Santa Barbara and Phoenix have good things to say about the men from both cities vying to win the job as San Bernardino's police chief.Sources confirmed Thursday that Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez and Phoenix Police Commander Rob Handy are the two finalists to lead San Bernardino's department and its 300 sworn officers.
Sanchez reportedly sent an e-mail to his department Thursday informing them he was a finalist.
Sanchez began his career with the Santa Barbara Police Department in 2000, as chief. Before Santa Barbara, Sanchez served as chief for the San Rafael Police Department. He also served 13 years with the Los Angeles Police Department.
Santa Barbara Councilman Randy Rowse described Sanchez, who overseas a force of 142 sworn officers, as a "chief in good standing" with the city.
Santa Barbara reportedly experienced an increase in gang violence and a spike in homicides in 2011, and Sanchez has been instrumental in fighting both, Rowse said.
But the news that Sanchez is at least thinking about leaving for San Bernardino could mean the city's efforts to quell Santa Barbara's recent violence could be disrupted, Rowse said.
"Our biggest issue is we're trying to get some programs going like gang injunctions and things like that," Rowse said. "Any time you make a change like that, it's hard to keep that going."
Handy has worked his entire career - more than 21 years - with the Phoenix Police Department, said acting chief Joe Yahner.
Handy became a commander more than five years ago and has recently commanded Phoenix's Maryvale patrol precinct.
"It's one of our busiest precincts," Yahner said.
The precinct is one of Phoenix's high-crime areas, with a significant number of violent crimes and home invasions. But Handy has done good work in keeping the tough precinct under control, Yahner said.
"He's done very good things in terms of crime suppression," he said.
While Yahner referred to Handy in glowing terms, he said the news that the commander could be San Bernardino's police chief gave him pause.
"I have mixed feelings about it," Yahner said. "I'm happy for him, but I'd hate to lose him.
"I can't say enough good things about him. San Bernardino would be lucky to have him."
If the salary of outgoing chief Keith Kilmer is any indication, both Sanchez and Handy are looking at significant pay increases if either is chosen as San Bernardino's top cop.
Kilmer's annual salary was $237,300 when he announced his retirement in March. He also agreed to a 10 percent concession to help with city budget cuts, dropping his salary to about $213,000.
Sanchez makes $194,000 a year in Santa Barbara. Handy makes $127,712 in Phoenix.
Jim Morris, Mayor Pat Morris' son and chief of staff, said a salary for the new police chief has not yet been determined.
"Salary is determined by the (city) charter," he said.
Though Sanchez and Handy have people in their home cities who praise their work as police commanders, both men have been forced to navigate rough waters recently.
Sanchez's possible departure from his department comes after it sustained a few black eyes.
The department on Aug. 5 arrested Karen Flores, a civilian employee accused of embezzling more than $100,000 in parking ticket revenue over several years.
One Santa Barbara newspaper published a five-part series by a freelance reporter alleging that a police officer tasked with DUI enforcement falsified numerous DUI arrests to make extra money. In the published series, the reporter admitted that he was arrested for DUI on New Year's Day by the officer he later investigated.
City Administrator Jim Armstrong said Thursday that he and Sanchez vowed to investigate the allegations made in the story when it was printed in June. Armstrong also noted that the same reporter who was arrested for DUI that wrote the series, investigating the life of the woman who arrested him.
"It demonstrated poor journalistic ethics," he said.
Handy was recently accused by an underling of creating a hostile work environment.
Former Phoenix Lt. Heston Silbert wrote a 33-page complaint to department brass in March 2010, calling for a formal investigation against Handy. Silbert, who is now a police commander in Mesa, Ariz., outlined multiple instances where he felt Handy acted in an antagonistic way.
"Over the course of the past three years, Commander Handy has been persistent in attempts to damage my career and reputation," Silbert wrote. "He has purposefully created a disruptive and hostile work environment for me and others, a fact that is known by members of the command and executive staff."
The Phoenix Police Department conducted an internal investigation into Silbert's claims.
The investigation wrapped up in January, clearing Handy of any wrongdoing, Sgt. Trent Crump said.
"There were allegations looked at after the department received the complaint," he said. "The claims were investigated and they found no cause for the complaint."
Both candidates were silent Friday about their candidacy for the San Bernardino police chief job.
When reached by phone, Handy declined to comment. Sanchez did not return a phone message seeking comment.