YAKIMA – Yakima police chief Dominic Rizzi Jr. may have about two months until his job is officially terminated, but he’s already out of the office.
Rizzi was placed on paid administrative leave Monday after he was given 60 days’ notice, city staff said. He was fired without cause, and under the terms of his contract he will receive $106,827. The total includes 60 days of pay, with another six months of severance pay. It does not include any vacation or sick leave that will be paid out.
The Yakima Herald-Republic tried several times to contact Rizzi, but he is no longer in the office and his department-issued cellphone was disconnected.
City Manager Cliff Moore on Tuesday did not provide any additional information about why Rizzi was fired.
The reins have already been handed to Capt. Gary Jones, who will lead the department until a new chief is named.
Moore said he doesn’t yet know what the process for hiring a new chief will look like. But he plans to talk with stakeholders, such as the police union, to determine desired qualities for the next chief.
Rizzi was Yakima police chief for six years, which falls inside the five to seven years he said he planned to stay here when he was first hired. On average, Yakima’s police chiefs have stayed eight years.
Before he was hired, the department saw years of turmoil, including complaints that then-Chief Sam Granato favored some officers but targeted others, which he denied.
In an interview in March, Rizzi said he worked to create a new leadership structure, creating more room for officers to request and attend training and move up through the ranks. That helped increase retention.
“I’m the chief of police, but this isn’t my department,” Rizzi said in an interview with the Yakima Herald-Republic. “I’m just holding this seat for the next guy. This department belongs to all of the patrol officers who are going to be here for the next 20 or 30 years.”
Violent crime rates have fluctuated since Rizzi took office, ranging from 60.5 violent incidents per 10,000 people in 2012 to as low as 43.6 incidents per 10,000 people in 2014.
Many residents continue to express concern about the police department. City resident and former City Council candidate Tony Sandoval asked the Yakima City Council at two recent meetings to fire Rizzi, pointing out Rizzi’s applications to be the police chief in other cities.
“There’s a lot of crime, a lot of problems,” he said earlier this month. “We need someone who’s energized to take that on.”
Sandoval also pointed out the need to address gangs.
During a rash of gang-related homicides last year, dozens of residents gathered at a community forum at Together Church. Many expressed distrust of police an unhappiness with the way officers have treated them in the past.
Rizzi said at the time he thinks the majority of residents trust officers.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.