FLAGSTAFF, AZ – Letters sent by members of the police union in Stockton, Calif., to Flagstaff officials have painted their former chief, Blair Ulring, as a politically ambitious man whose decisions hurt the cash-strapped department.
The president of the Stockton Police Officers Association, Steve Leonesio, said Ulring — one of two finalists for Flagstaff chief of police — was a politician who was unwilling to stand up for his officers, calling him “vindictive” and “two-faced.”
The incoming president of the union, Bill Hutto, said Ulring earned the nickname “The Emperor” and “The Dictator” with his employees by the time he was promoted to chief.
“I can honestly say I do not know of any employee in this department that would say a good word on Blair Ulring’s behalf,” Hutto wrote in an email to Deputy City Manager Josh Copley.
The city manager of Stockton, Bob Deis, said Ulring is one of the best police chiefs in the entire country and one who worked hard during an unparalleled municipal financial crisis.
Deis defended a man he has known for only a few years, saying the real issue is the politics surrounding the tough financial decisions that had to be implemented as the city of 300,000 attempts to stave off declaring bankruptcy, not Ulring’s decisions as police chief.
“He was a consummate professional. He did the best he could with the hand we dealt him,” Deis said.
Ulring retired from the police department in February after 28 years of service. A phone message left by the Daily Sun on his voicemail seeking comment was not immediately returned Wednesday.
Layoffs, salary reductions and cuts in benefits put the union on the offensive last year, with the union using its dues to put up billboards criticizing Ulring and other city officials.
One of the billboards purchased by the union read: “Welcome to the 2nd most dangerous city in California.” Another read: “People are being murdered in Stockton.” A banner below each billboard stated “Stop Laying Off Cops!” and then listed the city manager’s phone number.
The union also offered a vote of “no confidence” in then Chief Ulring in 2010.
Deis said he has also been a target of the union, noting that the Stockton Police Officers Association bought the house next door to him.
STILL A FINALIST
Flagstaff City Manager Kevin Burke acknowledged that city officials have received emails from the Stockton Police Officers Association related to Ulring. But they have also solicited comments from others in the California community about the former police chief.
“We are appreciative of the SPOA’s comments regarding Mr. Ulring as a finalist for the chief of police in Flagstaff,” Burke said. “Flagstaff residents can be assured that we have investigated these comments from many angles and believe we have a much more comprehensive understanding of events involving Mr. Ulring than any one person or agency can provide. Mr. Ulring is a strong candidate and remains under consideration for the position of chief.”
Burke is close to naming a new police chief to fill the vacancy left by Brent Cooper, who died unexpectedly of a heart attack last October.
The other finalist being considered is Acting Police Chief Kevin Treadway, who has been with the Flagstaff Police Department for the last 25 years.
A public records request by the Daily Sun revealed no disciplinary actions taken against Treadway in his entire career at the Flagstaff Police Department.
The Flagstaff police union has participated in the process to interview and research the police chief finalists, Burke said.
They have not, however, offered a formal opinion on either of the two finalists.
From The Arizona Daily Sun.