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Santa Ana police chief resigns and takes job as chief of BART Police Department

Chief Carlos Rojas’ resignation comes as he faces sharp criticism over gang-related shootings.
(Santa Ana Police Dept.)

Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas announced this week that he is resigning and taking a job as chief of the Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Department.

In a memo dated April 19, Rojas informed Gerardo Mouet, the acting city manager, of his resignation and said he would assist in the selection of a temporary police chief before his departure in June.

“I’ve had the privileged and honor to serve the business owners, residents and all community members of this wonderful city,” Rojas’ wrote.

Mouet said he would be working with the chief as well as others to find a temporary replacement.

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“I’ve have known Chief Rojas since he started as an employee at the city of Santa Ana 27 years ago and have nothing but respect for his great work for the city,” Mouet said in a statement.

Rojas’ resignation comes as he faces sharp criticism from some members of the City Council over a rise of gang-related shootings in the city, and a “no confidence” vote from the Santa Ana Police Officers Assn.

The wave of shootings became the central focus of the city’s election in November that led to a power shift at City Hall when police union-backed candidates won council seats. The candidates were critical of former leaders and Rojas for their inability to combat the violence in the city.

In a phone interview with The Times, Rojas said that while crime has risen, it was not to the level of the 1990s. He also said recent changes in state laws that resulted in early releases at jails and prisons have also played a role in the increase.

“California has seen a rise in crime,” he said. “Yes, unions can be critical at times, but that’s what happens with unions. I know I’ve been doing the right thing for the residents of Santa Ana and for the officers who do this job day in and day out.”

Rojas, who was born and raised in Huntington Beach, has led the Police Department since March 2012. He began his career in Santa Ana as a patrol officer in 1990 and rose through the ranks over the years from corporal to deputy chief. In May 2014, city officials appointed Rojas as chief. During his tenure, he oversaw the creation the department’s Homeland Security Division.

Rojas said he’s looking forward to serving as the next chief for the BART Police Department.

“It’s something new, it’s a step up and it’s about transit policing,” he said. “It’s not something I’ve done in terms of being a transit police officer but there’s an opportunity to learn and grow. It was very appealing to me.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity.”

Grace Crunican, the general manager for BART, said she’s looking forward to Rojas’ arrival and the policing experience that he’ll bring to the department.

“The Police Department has been moving in the right direction, and I am confident that our new chief will accelerate our efforts to increase the visibility of police officers on our trains and in our stations,” she said.

ruben.vives@latimes.com

For more Southern California news, follow @latvives on Twitter.

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