CMPD Restructuring Report Due Today
Sometime this afternoon Costa Mesa Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch will release the results and recommendations of the consultants evaluating the Costa Mesa Police Department. Word has it that the results are going to be brutal, with very significant cuts in staffing levels and very significant organizational changes - all of which will cause much angst among the rank and file of the CMPD and other city units.
A SNEAK PEEK
I've had the opportunity to get a little sneak peek at the final report to Hatch from Management Partners, the consulting firm given the assignment earlier this year to assess the Costa Mesa Police Department and come up with recommendations for a trimmer, more efficient organization. This report, and Hatch's adjustment of the recommendations, will be presented formally to the City Council at the extended Study Session on Tuesday, June 14th.
MANAGEMENT PARTNERS REPORT
Their report produced eight (8) recommendations, listed below:
1 - Implement a regional SWAT team with neighboring jurisdictions.
2 - Increase the ratio of non-sworn to sworn personnel to reduce expenditures and maintain a high level of customer service.
3 - Analyze the K-9 calls for service data to determine if staffing changes can be made to include these positions as part of a regular patrol beat.
4 - Identify a provider and contract animal control services.
5 - Develop and implement a succession plan in the Police Department.
6 - Implement both an internal and external training program for the Police Department Staff.
7 - Eliminate one commander position, three lieutenant positions, one sergeant position and three officer positions.
8 - Add one non-sworn logistical support manager position and one non-sworn special events coordinator position.
Theoretically, these changes would result in around $1.2 million in annual savings and would reduce the head count in the department to 136.
HATCH & CONSULTANTS MET WITH CMPD
Wednesday Hatch and the consultants met with members of the CMPD to give them a preview of the recommendations and Hatch's massaging of the numbers. It is my understanding that during this 2-hour meeting several things were said by Hatch and the consultants that might be considered incendiary. Mention has been made of those comments as part of a comment thread on the Daily Pilot blog attached to their article on the restructuring.
Here's part of what I know of that meeting.
Hatch went through the recommendations provided by Management Partners one-by-one, commenting editorially with some background on each. You've already read those recommendations, above, so you might imagine how this news was received.
HATCH WANTS BIGGER CUTS
However, the news immediately got worse as Hatch provided HIS massaged version that he'll be presenting to the City Council today. In it the head count is dropped to 125, with 5 added via a recently-received COPS grant. That covers 5 officers for 3 years, with the city required to pick up the costs in the 4th year. The attendees, I'm told, were already reeling from the 136 number - this one was a gut-punch. This reduces the head count to mid-1980s levels. In recent years the CMPD had a high staffing number of 164.
PHASING - IF COUNCIL PERMITS
To soften the impact of his changes Hatch said it was his plan to phase them in, with none taking place until October 1st this year. He then said he wasn't sure that the City Council would go for that plan - that they might simply require the changes effective July 1st, the beginning of the new fiscal year.
ABLE & HUNTINGTON BEACH
Hatch talked about the demise of ABLE, but told the group the council had approved $150,000 to be used for the remainder of the calendar year for contract helicopter assistance by Huntington Beach.
JAIL OUTSOURCING CONTROVERSY
When asked about the RFP for the outsourcing of the Jail functions - why was it not part of this study BEFORE the decision was made to produce the RFP - he had no answer except that the council felt that was the way to go.
COUNCIL MIGHT DO SOMETHING ENTIRELY DIFFERENT
About a half hour into the presentation he cautioned the audience to not assume the City Council will go along with the report. They might just decide to do something entirely different.
DISTRUST AND ANGER!
Hatch was asked why police management was not consulted FIRST about possible restructuring instead of choosing to use expensive outside consultants. His response was, "Because there is distrust. There is distrust about us. There is anger about public employees." He went on to say that the council apparently didn't trust the staff to generate RFPs that would fairly provide an opportunity for others to bid on potential outsourced operations. At one point he specifically mentioned that he thought the City Council didn't fully trust him. This is an astounding admission, and a very troubling one.
ABOUT THAT "125" NUMBER...
During the conversation Hatch told the officers that his goal was to reach 132 staffing level by October 1st. (He later said his number was actually 131) One of the officers challenged Hatch about the 125 staffing number, which to him seemed arbitrary. Hatch said something about it being a number that had been out in the community when Interim Chief Steve Staveley interrupted him and said, "I can tell you exactly where that number came from."
PULLED OUT OF THE AIR BY COUNCILMEN
Staveley told the group that, on his very first day on the job this time around, he was invited to coffee by "two city council members" - he didn't name them - and during that coffee they told him in no uncertain terms that they wanted to see a police force of 125 sworn members, period. He asked them where they got that number and they pointed to a formula in a book that was clearly NOT intended to be used arbitrarily for staffing purposes because it didn't take into consideration special circumstances and demographic information on reporting cities.
MIXED FRUIT=WRONG NUMBERS
The council members were trying to compare Irvine and Costa Mesa, which Staveley said was like trying to compare a tangerine and a watermelon. He then said, "There is no scientific data in the staffing of a police department that justifies that number." In my opinion, that's information that every resident of this city should know because that capricious, arbitrary number now forms the cornerstone of the future of the CMPD.
MORE ANGST ABOUT DISTRUST
During this discussion Hatch, several times, mentioned that he wasn't sure the City Council fully trusted him, and also mentioned that he wasn't sure they trusted Staveley, either.
WHAT ABOUT DRUG FUNDS?
Attendees asked about the use of the Narcotics Seizure funds and were told that those dollars were strictly controlled by the Federal Government rules. Staveley did say, pointing to himself, that the only person who controls those funds is the person wearing this badge. He was adamant about it. He also said there's a long lead time before those funds actually reach our city.
RESERVE OFFICERS VS. FULL TIME?
The plan involved greater use of Reserve officers, but also includes layoffs for full time officers. When told by one officer that it was their understanding that full time officers would only be laid off AFTER all Reserve officers were terminated, Hatch didn't have an answer to that issue. This was one of several questions Hatch couldn't - or wouldn't - answer. I found myself thinking that if he had a permanent Administrative Services Director instead of an Interim person in that slot the answers might have been available to him.
More than once Hatch referred to the challenging "political environment", and how it stifles trust and good communications. My jaw dropped at the candor he expressed to these officers because his bosses, the city council, include at least a couple of men who have demonstrated a very vindictive streak. I feared that Hatch was potentially placing his job in jeopardy by simply acknowledging what EVERY observer of local politics has seen over the past few months.
EX-CHIEF DEFINED THE ATMOSPHERE
Management Partners staffer, Mike Messina - former Police Chief in Brea with more than four decades of law enforcement experience - told the group that "You guys have a really tough political environment here - it's brutal!" He went on to acknowledge what a great heritage and reputation the CMPD has in the law enforcement community and commended them for retaining at least a semblance of community-oriented policing.
CHAMNESS ASKED THE TOUGH QUESTION
Police association President Jason Chamness closed the meeting with a few questions. His final one really defined the message that was delivered over the previous two hours. He asked Hatch, "Do you think the politics are detrimental to public safety in Costa Mesa?" Hatch replied, "I think the politics are the reality that we have to deal with."
I'M WORRIED FOR THE CMPD - AND THE CITY
Quite honestly, I'm very concerned about how this city council might react to Hatch's proposal for the restructuring of the CMPD. I suspect they might simply ignore the recommendations of the consultants and Hatch's adjustments and demand even more draconian, immediate cuts. Clearly, as articulated earlier by Messina, they are not about to let the facts get in the way of their plans.