Today the Los Angeles Times published an article entitled, "A hire that's a cold contrast", which dealt with the current police chief in Richmond, a tough city across the bay from San Francisco.
At 103,000 people, Richmond is just about the same size as Costa Mesa, but has a very different racial make-up. According to the Times article, Richmond is 36% black, 27% Latino and 21% white and is ranked among the most dangerous American cities. Based on the information in the article, in 2005 police made arrests in only 13% of the homicide cases they investigated.
One city councilman is quoted as saying, "Somebody got shot and killed and 50 people were watching but 'nobody saw nothing,' "
Then the city hired Chris Magnus, a white man who came from Fargo, North Dakota - a city almost entirely white - as their police chief.
The story goes on to detail Magnus' approach, reinstatement of what is commonly knows as "community based policing" and giving senior officers responsibility for specific area within the city - a beat of their own. According to one officer quoted, "The chief gave us voice mail, email and cellphones.", which dramatically improved communications between the officers on the beat and the residents of the city. Because the officers were more visible and accessible to the community in a positive way, communications improved and more crimes were solved.
Contrast this to current day Costa Mesa, where our mayor and his majority seem determined to drive wedges between the police and the community, particularly the Latino community. There are many of us hoping that our own new chief, Chris Shawkey, can re-establish the lines of communication within the community that were shredded a year ago when our young jailer/mayor proposed his plan for cross-designation of Costa Mesa officers as immigration screeners.
Quite honestly, I don't think that's going to happen. I think that the current make-up of the city council, with the automatic acquiescence of Wendy Leece replacing the occasional voice of moderation Gary Monahan provided, practically guarantees even more draconian approaches to resolving conflict in this city. I guess we'll find out soon enough as this council gets it's game plan in place - perhaps as early as the meeting tonight.
The constant drumbeat of the blog CM Press, the bible for many of the self-anointed "improvers" in town and the song book for the Mansoor majority, continues to pound out it's anti-Latino rhythm with the persistence of a Chinese water torture. It apparently influences many people in this town who either don't care, or are too lazy, to assess the reasons behind the author's invective. They don't take the time to read his broader essays, which are an open window into the warped mind of this man. If they did, the readers would repudiate his mantra instead of taking every word he writes and every comment he utters at the speakers podium as gospel.
The Times article chronicles for us the success possible in very difficult situations when intelligent application of good community communications exists. Trust of the police by the residents creates sources of information which aids them in solving crimes. Thanks to the mayor, in Costa Mesa we have just the opposite - fear of the police, which dried up sources of information, which has led to an increase in violent crimes.
The aforementioned CM Press, in it's most recent posting, lists applicants for the Planning and Parks and Recreation Commissions, the openings on which will soon be filled by the City Council. I perused those lists with great interest and found among them names of some of those "improvers" mentioned above. Based on their public pronouncements, published viewpoints and actions over the past several years, I personally don't think some of those people will represent the interests of all residents of Costa Mesa on those commissions. I think they will represent only the narrow views of their cadre of malcontents which have orchestrated control of this city. However, should a couple of them gain appointments it will likely make for some interesting ingredients in the stew we stir here. They will go from private citizen to public figure and the spotlight that goes with such positions. They will no longer be able to hide behind pseudonyms while voicing controversial viewpoints on blog postings, for example. Nope, the light of day will be upon them and they will become fair game. Whether the public pays attention remains a big question. Only time will tell.