Redlands Hires Woman Chief As Antidote To Police Command Staff’s Chauvinism

Amid publicly unresolved questions relating to improper and what some have referred to as “sexually coercive” activity involving the department’s former deputy chief and following the abrupt resignation of Police Chief Christopher Catren earlier this year, Redlands has promoted Commander Rachel Tolber to serve as the Redlands Police Department’s chief of police.
Tolbert has been serving as acting police chief during the three months following the not-fully-explained departure of Catren in March.
Catren had risen rapidly in the department, virtually from the time he was hired as a sworn officer in 1996. Catren began with the department as its first crime analyst, a nonsworn position, in 1994, while he was yet a student at San Bernardino State University pursuing a degree in business administration.
After an obligatory stint as a patrol officer, he worked his way quickly up the ranks as an investigator, training officer, field supervisor, detective and sergeant. His supervisory positions included investigations, patrol, field training coordinator and reserve police officer coordinator.
In 2007, Catren was promoted to lieutenant and managed the investigative services bureau, the patrol services bureau and the special operations bureau while at that rank.
In addition to his bachelor’s degree in business administration, Catren obtained a master’s in public administration from California State University, San Bernardino. He graduated from the California Police Officers Standards and Training Command College in 2012.He was promoted to commander in 2013 and oversaw each of the department’s divisions.
On December 20, 2017, following the retirement of former Police Chief Mark Garcia, he was promoted into the position of chief of police.
Catren was formerly the San Bernardino County Police Chiefs’ Association president, a member of the League of California Cities Board of Directors and was named president of the California Police Chiefs Association in February 2022. He was still in that position when on March 2 of this year he announced his retirement as police chief.
Accompanying the announcement was a cover story to the effect that Catren’s retirement was precipitated by a back injury, which more than a dozen of the department’s officers said was an absolute canard and which large numbers of the city’s residents saw through at once. The back injury rationale has been dismissed by a cross section of the Redlands community based on the timing of other parallel developments, including investigations launched into the department by both the FBI and city management.
At issue in those investigations was a claim that several of the department’s senior ranking members had engaged in the destruction of evidence and had either encouraged or ordered other department members to destroy evidence and doctor official police reports in such a way that evidence of certain criminality would not come to light. At focus in that investigation were former Deputy Chief Mike Reiss, Commander Stephen Crane and Sergeant Kyle Alexander. Some department members insinuated that Reiss and Crane could not have been involved in such a cover-up without the implicit knowledge of the police chief.
At the heart of the matter was an allegation of gross sexual harassment of at least one female employee by Reiss. With the department reeling from the implications of that ignominy, it appears that a decision was made to bypass the logical heir to the police chief’s position, Deputy Chief Travis Martinez, in favor of Tolber.
Tolber has been with the department since 1998. She worked her way up the department’s assignment ladder, having worked patrol and as the department’s firearms proficiency trainer and armorer, field training officer, detective, patrol supervisor, investigations supervisor, crisis negotiator, and professional standards/internal affairs officer.
As what was the department’s then-highest ranking distaff member, Tolber was given the assignment of leading the Redlands Citizen Volunteer Park Rangers squad. She is credited with cofounding the Redlands Police and Corrections Team.
At one point, Tolber did an executive internship in the Redlands city manager’s office. She is a California Police Officers Standards and Training Command College graduate.
Earlier this year, she was leading the department’s special services bureau. With Catren’s retirement, she was tapped to serve as the interim chief while a determination was made on who would be brought in to replace Catren as the full-fledged police chief.
Amidst an atmosphere in which male chauvinism was the issue de jour at the Redlands Police Department, Tolber was selected for the temporary assignment to replace Catren as City Manager Charles Duggan and the city council cast about over what it was going to do to find someone to replace Catren. City officials, collectively, were caught flatfooted by the situation, as it was generally assumed that Catren was going to remain in place for another five, six or seven years. Replacing Catren with Deputy Chief Mike Reiss, whose action had precipitated the crisis and who was next in line along with Deputy Chief Travis Martinez to replace Catren, was out of the question. It was felt that a show of sensitivity by elevating a woman into the interim police chief’s role, particularly given that it was to be a temporary assignment, would be appropriate, insofar as it was insensitivity that had delivered the department into the uncomfortable position it had come to occupy. In turning to Tolber, Deputy Chief Travis Martinez, was stepped over.
According to a lawsuit brought by community services officer/property and evidence technician Julie Salcido alleging sexual harassment and a claim against the city by another police department employee, forensic specialist Geneva Holzer, Reiss succeeded in pressuring Salcido to engage in sexual acts with him and sought but failed to have Holzer similarly accommodate him.
In December 2019, Holzer found a chair on which Salcida had spilled some of Reiss’s semen after she performed oral sex on him in August 2019. After Holzer tested the chair and confirmed the stain in question was semen, she said she was told by Sergeant Kyle Alexander to “get rid of or destroy chair” and “to not be descriptive in my report and to send the report and photos of the chair directly to him over email.” Further according to Holzer, Alexander “told me not to put anything in our evidence system photo wise and don’t put the report into our report system.” Holzer said the matter “was never reported up my chain of command except to Commander Crane” and “Reiss was told about this chair in 2019 and Reiss ordered this chair to be destroyed so it could never be discovered.” Despite Reiss’s order, Holzer said she “had stored it in the vault in a secure location to maintain that it would not go missing or be destroyed.” Holzer maintains that the department’s organizational chart was such that she and Alexander reported to Commander Stephen Crane, who in turn was supposed to report to Deputy Chief Travis Martinez. With regard to the sexual activity in the office between Reiss and Salcido, the chair and the evidence it represented, Martinez was bypassed, according to Holzer.
“[T]his event was never reported up my chain of command or Sergeant Alexander’s chain of command except to Commander Crane,” according to Holzer. “Deputy Chief Martinez can confirm all of this information as he never knew about the chair as it was never reported to him. At the time, Deputy Chief Martinez should have been in Sgt. Alexander and Commander Crane’s chain of command, but they instead most likely reported to Deputy Chief Reiss due to friendship and loyalty.”
According to Holzer, upon her hiring as a forensic specialist in August 2018, there was immediate tension and apparent personality conflict between her and both Salcido, who was then a community services officer, and Eloise Tankersley, another forensic specialist. Holzer implied that her arrival at the department interrupted a circumstance in which Salcido and Tankersley were engaged in sexual activity with the department’s sworn personnel in exchange for preferential treatment. Salcido in February 2019 was promoted to the position of property and evidence technician. Holzer suggested that during the initial stages of her employment with the department, Salcido and Tankersley were able to subject her to a hostile working environment at will because of the favoritism the department’s officers were showing toward Salcido and Tankersley. This was, Holzer said, an outgrowth of the “rampant sexual harassment and sexual favoritism that existed within the PD.”
Following Tankersley’s firing in October 2019 and Salcido’s resignation in November 2019, according to Holzer, she became the object of Reiss’s sexual harassment, in which he began to pressure her to engage in a physical relationship with him, which she said she resisted.
On August 22, 2022, Salcido, who is also known as Julie Alvarado-Salcido, filed a labor/wrongful termination lawsuit against the City Of Redlands and its police department, alleging that Reiss had coerced her into performing oral sex on him in her office in August 2019.
At one point, according to Holzer, Reiss and Alexander had gone into the police department’s basement “looking around” in an effort to locate Salcido’s chair. The department’s other forensic specialist, Ruth Samano, inquired if it was the chair they were seeking. This provoked Reiss to ask, “You know about the chair?” Holzer said that Samano told Reiss that she did, but that the chair was not there. Thereafter, Reiss and Alexander immediately left, according to Holzer.
Had it not been for Holzer’s defiance of Reiss in preserving the chair and securing it in an area of the department’s evidence locker in the basement of the police department to which neither Reiss nor Crane nor Alexander had access, the matter would have died a quiet death.
According to Holzer, the matter lay dormant until in January of this year Sergeant Patrick Leivas “asked me about the chair evidence and if I had knowledge of it. I told him everything that happened. Holzer said it was her belief that Leivas thereafter touched off the investigations that led to Reiss’s and Catren’s departures from the department.
“Sgt. Leivas reported it to multiple law enforcement authorities and an investigation was started into what happened,” Holzer said.
The chair is now in the custody of the FBI, the Sentinel is informed.
On January 30, Reiss, who was making $201,316.59 in salary and $477,464.74 in total annual compensation when his pay add-ons, perquisites and benefits were figured in, was placed on administrative leave. Upon learning that the evidence of his and Salcida’s August 2019 tryst in her office was in the possession of the FBI, Reiss figured that his prospect of being reinstated with the department was virtually nonexistent and the chances that he would be able to find a position anything close to his deputy chief post in Redlands was slim, and he elected to retire. He is now pulling a $188,736 per year pension.
Shortly after Reiss’s suspension, Alexander was also placed on administrative leave.
Within the department there was spreading trepidation, as any of those who had been involved sexually with other members of the department or had even tangential involvement in the effort to bury the incident involving Reiss and Salcida or intimidate Holzer into remaining quiet about what she knew about it were potentially being focused upon in a rumored internal affairs investigation. Given the extent of the issues being investigated and that those alleged to have been involved included Reiss, who was considered to be either the department’s second-or-third-highest ranking member, the city brought in an outside company to carry out the internal affairs investigation.
As that investigation was proceeding, there was further fallout, at least some of which landed on Police Chief Catren. According to Holzer, on February 8, Catren, whom she described as “nervous” and contrite, came into her office, engaging with her to tell her he “had no idea this was happening and that if he did know he would have stopped this long ago.” Catren was referring to Reiss and Holzer’s discovery of the chair in 2019 and the effort to have her destroy it.
According to Holzer, “I did not believe him because I know that he and Reiss are good friends and throughout his time on the department, Reiss was rewarded. I believe Chief Catren and others always covered up Reiss’s bad behavior.”
Three weeks later, Catren resigned.
“On 3/1/23 an emergency meeting was held with the announcement of Chief Catren medically retiring, although the chief appeared to be in good health,” according to Holzer.
Three months since Catren’s departure has now elapsed and the department is yet seeking to live down the specter of one of the department’s deputy police chiefs, one of its commanders and a sergeant working in unison to destroy evidence.
One means of doing that, of course, would have been to look for someone outside the department to come in to head it up as police chief. City Manager Duggan and the city council, which counts among its five members two outspoken women, however, were convince that the community would be better served by someone intimately familiar with the city who can be relied upon to know the ins and outs of not just the department but the lay of the land in Redlands geographically, socially, institutionally and politically.
In terms of experience, seniority, time in place in crucial department capacities, educational achievement and other criteria, the three most logical in-house candidates for police chief were Martinez, Crane and Tolber, essentially in that order. Crane being involved in the incidents leading up to Catren’s departure ruled him out as a candidate.
Ultimately, a consideration of the hole the department finds itself in proved to be the deciding factor. That the recent chapter that has put the department into disrepute consists of a narrative in which three men led the charge in seeking to destroy crucial evidence relating to multiple levels of wrongdoing and that it was two women – lower ranking and unsworn women – who were responsible for preserving the evidence of that wrongdoing did not mitigate, particularly, in Martinez’s favor, despite the consideration that he was not directly involved in Reiss’s, Crane’s and Alexander’s misdeeds and that he was instrumental in bringing the matter to the attention of the FBI.
Ultimately, Tolber, a graduate of the University of Redlands who has since earned a master’s degree in criminology from the University of California at Irvine and a second master’s degree in applied criminology from the University of Cambridge, was given the nod to succeed Catren.
“Rachel Tolber continues to exceed expectations as interim police chief,” City Manager Charles Duggan said in announcing the appointment. “I have closely watched her work since being appointed interim chief, and I am impressed by her leadership qualities, dedication to the city, excellent decision making and her communication skills. Rachel possesses all of the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to succeed as our next police chief.”
“I am truly humbled and honored to be selected to the lead the men and women of the RPD in our service of such an incredible community,” Tolber said. “I’m very fortunate to be part of this community and look forward to continuing to provide public safety and building meaningful relationships with all of our community partners, while providing the highest level of service to the residents of Redlands.”
Tolber’s appointment will become effective Monday, June 12.
-Mark Gutglueck

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