A Proud Morning...
This morning, on a day scrubbed fresh by an early morning drizzle, the setting was perfect for a gathering of every member of the Costa Mesa Police Department for a "family" photograph - a preamble to the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the department later this year.
Just over two hundred men and women, sworn and civilian, gathered in the parking lot adjacent to Police Headquarters to have their presence as proud members of the CMPD recorded for posterity photographically as the department marks six decades of service to our community.
As I wandered around snapping candid images of the men and women who have become my friends over the past few years I felt great pride in them, and the way they go about doing their jobs. Despite being vilified by certain elected leaders they just continue to exhibit true professionalism and do their jobs to the best of their ability. Although their numbers have diminished significantly in recent years, those remaining and those few new members of the CMPD family go out every day to protect and serve us all.
I saw former Police Chief Roger Neth - badge #1 - join former Chief Dave Snowden - currently the Chief of Police for Beverly Hills - and current Chief Tom Gazsi with the men and women they hired, trained, nurtured and supported over many decades. As I snapped this photo I found myself thinking how lucky this community has been to have such outstanding, forward-thinking law enforcement leaders.
I watched as the cadre of volunteers eagerly awaited their time to be properly positioned for the group photo, enthusiastically chatting with their co-workers. Their tireless efforts certainly augment the duties of the civilian and sworn officers.
KHA BAO MADE ME SMILE
REAL FAMILY TEAMS
I smiled as the husband and wife teams within the department made sure their spouses looked good for the photo, straightening neckties and making sure their brass was properly shined.
GLAD FOR THE CHAPLAINS
I watched as a half-dozen men who perform as chaplains for the CMPD gathered and spoke with the men and women. I found myself glad they have this kind of spiritual guidance available to them at this time in the history of the organization.
BEING A COP IN COSTA MESA
As I watched the professional photographers lined up each tier on the benches in the parking lot, then patiently got them properly staged for what will certainly be a photo for the ages, I thought a lot about what it takes to be a law enforcement officer, and particularly what it takes to be a law enforcement officer in THIS city at THIS time. I venture to say that nowhere in our region - maybe our state - has there been a more difficult work environment for public safety staff than Costa Mesa over the past nearly three years.
On the heels of the economic downturn beginning in 2007 that froze salaries, a new council majority was elected that considered employees - and particularly law enforcement employees - not as partners and associates providing services to the public, but as adversaries - impediments to the accomplishment of their political agendas. The short-sighted fiscal management that prioritized potholes over public safety restricted timely hiring of officers to replace known anticipated retirements. The toxic atmosphere created by that council majority caused many officers to seek positions elsewhere. As of today, thirty-nine (39) officers have departed the CMPD since the beginning of 2010. And the crime rate rises.
And, as I watched them mill around, waiting for the photo opportunity, I thought about the lawsuit filed by our mayor and mayor pro tem against them. Yes, Jim Righeimer and Steve Mensinger will say they sued the "union", not the cops. That, of course, is a steaming pile of horse manure! The men and women of the CMPD ARE the association! They are officers who go to work every day with that bogus lawsuit in the back of their minds.
PROUD, BUT ANXIOUS
As a member of the community, this morning I was proud of the men and women of the CMPD, and of their leadership team that directs a diminished staff to keep us all safe. I worry about their future, and ours, because it is very likely that we will be able to place fewer than 100 sworn officers in the field in the very near future. Despite their skill, professionalism and their will to serve us, it seems virtually impossible to properly police a city of more than 110,000 people with such meager resources. For that you can thank your mayor and mayor pro tem.
Thanks to the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department for their efforts on our behalf. I'm sure they know that many people out here in the community appreciate their efforts - and have their backs.
NEWPORT COVERED FOR US
Thanks to our friends in Newport Beach for covering our turf for this event. It's always nice to have good neighbors, isn't it?