Chief Snowden Speaks Out
Anyone even casually following politics in Costa Mesa for the past couple years understands that the relationship between the Costa Mesa police officers and the current City Council majority has been "strained", to say the very least. From before Mayor Jim Righeimer and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger took office the ill feelings between them and the police association was obvious.
We've seen police chiefs come and go. Former Interim Chief Steve Staveley abruptly left in a strong disagreement with the current administration about the management of our police resources, leaving behind a caustic letter outlining his view of this administration's inability to understand law enforcement, much less effectively manage it..
In recent weeks there have bee several letters in the local media. Including one from Jim Fisler - president of Mesa Water, former planning commissioner and council candidate - and Clay Epperson, retired CMPD lieutenant.
CHIEF SNOWDEN SPEAKS OUT
Former CMPD Chief Dave Snowden responded to one of those commentaries with a note on Facebook, which has apparently subsequently disappeared. Today he has given me permission to reproduce that observation here, knowing that the vagaries of that social media outlet will not be in play here.
I read in the Daily Pilot where my comments from a decade ago regarding comparing crime statistics with other communities are being quoted. Apparently my comments are being used to infer that any increase in the crime rate in Costa Mesa today is acceptable and well within the norm.
Consider this. A decade ago CMPD had close to 165 sworn officers on the job and a very well-staffed non-sworn support contingent. It was my policy when I was chief that all crime was to be documented and reported so that resources could then be allocated where the reporting showed it was most needed. Of course, the downside to reporting all crime was that the reporting policies of some other agencies didn't require the same accuracy. Accurate reporting in our agency could show a rise in some reportable crimes when compared to a city with a city not held to the same standard. Even with our policy of documenting all crime we were able to reduce Part 1 crimes (the really bad crime) by 56% over a ten year period. That was due to great police work by dedicated cops and staff who worked very hard for the community they were sworn to protect. They had the unanimous support of the city council. CMPD were always the very best and the brightest in OC. In 17+ years! fewer than five officers left to take jobs in other agencies and one of those came back and was later promoted.
Under the lack of support by the current city council majority this has changed drastically. Costa Mesa it seems is no longer able to attract the best and the brightest or even to retain the great staff they have left. Council support? What kind of city council sues it's own POA or holds their department hostage on hiring until for political reasons? How many more great officers and staff will have to leave before the community realizes that the best and brightest are just a memory and that they can no longer hire the quality of officer and staff they were once were able to attract? They have one of the finest police chiefs in the business and certainly one of the best communities in OC, but the political climate is deplorable. Never in the 60 year history of this fine city has there been more scandal. In the last few years virtually every department head has left, including the city manager.
As for the comparison of crime stats, go to the library and get the FBI UCR and open the book. It hasn't changed. Before you even get to the statistics you will find THEIR words telling the reader to NOT make comparisons with other communities for a myriad of reasons. One of these reasons is that cities may have different reporting policies. If a city doesn't report a crime (take the report) IT WON'T BE reflected in the stats! If a department doesn't have sufficient staff to respond to calls and take reports the result could be a false impression that crime is down. Resources won't be deployed where most needed because it will be difficult to accurately determine where crime is occurring .
I hope the current council and their supporters can count. The 120 (I am hearing closer to 100) officers deployed today is at least 45 officers short of where they were a decade ago. CMPD is running call to call. They are terribly understaffed and at current levels, can barely keep up with their workload. These fine men and women are doing the best they can with a bad situation. The low morale that comes from a council majority that does not support them will and is taking a toll!
I read where the mayor is now trying to shift the blame to Chief Gazsi and has even recommended reducing his high hiring standards. No one can possibly believe that the chief is to blame or that reducing standards will have anything but disastrous results. I am betting that most PD staff are still holding their chins high because of Chief Gazsi's leadership and dedication to them and to Costa Mesa. I hope the good citizens of CM understand just how great their police and firefighters are. They should start demanding from their elected majority that their police and fire department personnel be treated with the respect they have earned and deserve before they too are just a memory. God bless all of these fine men and women.