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Steve Pitts, Chief of Police
Reno Nevada 2010-2015 

Steve Pitts, a 31-year department veteran in 2010 and considered a "cop's cop," was named as acting Reno police chief on April 10, 2010, taking over after Chief Michael Poehlman retired on June 25.

In a memo to city staff making the announcement, city manager Donna Dreska said the deputy police chief has "exhibited strong leadership skills" as he has moved through the command ranks and will carry those skills forward in his new assignment." He's an outstanding officer with many years of service with the city," Mayor Bob Cashell said. "He'll do a fantastic job and is a cop's cop. He understands the budget and knows he has to do some restructuring. Iook forward to working with him." Cashell said the "acting chief' status will give Pitts a chance to try out the job. "Fora guy who has been in the ranks for a while, you want to give a guy a chance. Once transferred in as permanent chief, there's no going back. This will let him get a taste of it."

Pitts spent many of his 31years with the department's homicide detective division. He was promoted from lieutenant to a police commander in 2002. In 2008, he was named a deputy chief after serving as commander for detectives and the north patrol division.

After the retirement of Deputy Chief Jim Johns, Pitts was the only deputy chief and was responsible for field operations.

He is known as a straight talker, one not to mince his words and one who has earned the respect of other officers. He holds a master's in public administration from Golden Gate University in San Francisco and a bachelor's degree in organizational studies from California State University at Long Beach. He's also a graduate of leadership programs sponsored by the FBI, Harvard University and the Naval Postgraduate School's counterterrorism program. He does consulting and training for community oriented policing and was instrumental in creating a National Police Officer Training Program. 


1908 Reno Police Department Manual

Reno Evening Gazette Extra July 4, 1910

Alex Burke

Public Hanging of J.W. Rover 1878

Steve Pitts, Chief of Police -- 2010-2015

Mayor Bob Cashell Called Steve Pitts a “Cop's Cop”

by Jim Gibbs

Simultaneous with the naming of Steve Pitts as acting chief of police on April 10, 2010, City Manager Dreska fired Reno’s finance director as the city went through its worst financial struggles in recent memory. While still employed as the “Acting Chief of Police” on January 24, 2011, Steve Pitts announced that he would retire on March 24th.

Pitts would eventually retire in the middle of April, 2011 but was then rehired April 27, 2011 as the permanent chief of police. Pitts agreed to waive all but $20,000 of the $153,000 paid by the city as chief of police while drawing his pension. Steve Pitts became the first and perhaps the only chief of police for the City of Reno to hold the position while actually drawing income from the City as a retiree at the same time.

It is not difficult to make assumptions regarding the arrangement. The City of Reno was under financial stress. The city's population had grown by 61 percent since 1990 to 217,300 residents, and the size of the city is almost twice as big, at 106 square miles.

In 2011, the city had 288 sworn police positions, 85 fewer than in 2009 and less than the 307 in 1990. Police Chief Steve Pitts said that's 1.4 officers for every 1000 residents, below FBI-recommended standards of 1.8 per 1000 which was even higher at 2.3 for every 1000 residents for Western states. The Reno Police responded to an average of 416 calls a day in 2011, versus 287 in 1990.

To cope in 2011, Pitts kept patrol positions filled and cutback on special operations. Top brass had been cut to his position and two deputy chiefs.

Dispatchers are a little more stressed as well. They number 56, with 13 vacant positions no longer funded.


Chief of Police Steve Pitts, Deputy Chief Mac Venzon, Deputy Chief Tom Robinson, Commander Rob Van Diest, and Commnader Shannon Wiecking.


Chief Pitts elected to send five officers overseas to Kiev in Ukraine to conduct training for a program operated by the United Stats Department of Justice. Although, he said that he carefully analyzed his staffing needs and risk to the officers involved in war torn Ukraine, Pitts neglected to conduct an at-home political assessment of the Reno City Council. And while he briefed the city manager on his decision, he opted not to notify the elected council until the five officers were already on a plane to Kiev. When the council learned of the deployment they ask chief Pitts for an explanation and then ordered the officers to be returned to Reno ending the program early.


P.O. Box 60631
Reno, NV 89506

Phone: 775-200-0578
Fax: 888-496-0270