Friday, March 07, 2014

Voice Of A Departed Comrade-in-Arms

NOT ENOUGH COPS
Much has been said lately about the staffing levels of the Costa Mesa Police Department.  The combination of the economic downturn a few years ago that created early retirement incentives and a vindictive, stubborn City Council majority that came into power with a view that the CMPD should be staffed nearly 20% thinner than consultants and experienced law enforcement leaders recommended, has contributed to a situation today where we cannot field a full complement of officers without requiring dramatic overtime hours.  The Daily Pilot published a commentary I submitted on this issue this afternoon, HERE.

LEAVING IN DROVES
The toxic atmosphere created by Mayor Jim Righeimer, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger and councilman Gary Monahan throughout the city has been felt most strongly among the ranks of the CMPD.  Recent reports released by the city, which we mentioned HERE a couple weeks ago, show just how precarious public safety is in this city today.  It is my understanding that we are unable to field 100 men and women for duty with the CMPD today - and this is likely to get much worse soon.

PENDING RETIREMENTS AND RESIGNATIONS
Besides the nearly one dozen officers, including Chief Tom Gazsi, who could retire right now, other officers are actively seeking other positions in neighboring agencies - and taking pay cuts and longer commutes to do it.

ONE BRAVE OFFICER SPEAKS OUT
Officer Jacob Slechta left for a job at another nearby agency this week and, on his last day as a member of the CMPD, wrote a letter to fellow-officers in the Costa Mesa Police Department.  I spoke with Officer Slechta this afternoon who confirmed for me that he would not have left the CMPD if it was not for the limited opportunities due to the hostile political climate created by the current City Council majority.  With his permission I offer this letter to you now for your consideration. It has not been edited.

From: SLECHTA, JACOB A. 
Sent: Wednesday, March 05, 2014 10:19 PM
To: POLICE DEPARTMENT  
Subject: Thank You

Greetings,

Tonight ends my time with the Costa Mesa Police Department.  Over the past few years, I have read many “farewell” letters.  Most of them have the same general tone of thanking people and so on.  In fairness to a long lost moral trait, I am going to speak my mind and tell the truth about certain things that others may think, but choose not to speak of due to possible repercussions.  With that being said, I also have no intent on burning any bridges.  Whatever I say throughout this letter are my beliefs and my beliefs alone.  I will not use anyone as my own personal martyr for choices that I made. 

First, I want to thank this organization for hiring me.  I have learned a ton about the law and all of its nuances.  I have had the honor to learn from some great leaders.  I also possess the common sense to know when someone is not so great.  There are entirely too many people to name that have positively influenced me and it would be unfair of me to try. 

I had an amazing opportunity to work with a great group of rank and file police officers during my time on patrol; most recently working weekday PM shift.  Teams 5 and 6 really blended together.  I wish my partners nothing but the best and hope they get all the recognition they deserve.  Sergeants Starn and Grimmond were outstanding and made this transition seamless for me.  I had never worked for either of those Sergeants until recently.  They understand how to develop subordinates and bring a level of expertise and experience that is unmatched; two of the best patrol sergeants I’ve known.  They both took a solid interest in me and listened to my reasons for leaving the department.  Thank you, gentlemen.  

I also earned the chance to work in the Special Enforcement Detail.  That is an experience I will never forget.  I learned so much from my partners in that unit.  Mario, Bang, George (1), George (2), Kevin, Dan, and Matt; you guys are excellent at this job and we had a great three years.  We traveled throughout the region taking drugs and money off criminals and loved every minute of it.  I only hope this police department understands the value of their efforts.  The money that was seized has opened many doors that were otherwise closed.  Sergeant May, you have been like a father figure to me and although you come across a little rough, those that truly know you believe that you would give anyone the shirt off your back.  Okay, maybe not the equivalent to a father figure.  Maybe a distant cousin that possesses no filter; I am only kidding.  Thank you for allowing your team the freedom and trust to succeed.

I especially want to thank the civilian staff that works very hard to support our efforts as police officers.  Every one of you helped me along the way and I can’t thank you enough.   

My decision to leave this department was not an easy one.   I will say this:  If you are in a position of leadership whether it is deserving, or not; never forget how you got to that position.  Unless of course you got there by doing things that were not consistent with being a good leader.  What I mean is that I have seen people get promoted that do not possess the type of leadership traits that I agree with.  This is a very simple concept.  Never ask a subordinate to do something you would not do yourself, and every now and again it does not hurt to perform the duties that brought you to the place you currently are.  I would also challenge everyone in a leadership position to look within and ask themselves if what they are doing is in the best interest of those they govern.  I learned at a very young age that if I just do my job and take care of my men, my efforts will and should be recognized.  The second I start performing my duties in an effort solely to get recognized is when I failed as a leader.  Leading men and women in a profession such as this demands a selfless leader.     

To the three individuals that comprise our council majority.  If you think that you have filled your quota of public service by becoming (elected) council members; you are sorely mistaken.  You are (3) of the most despicable human beings I have ever heard of.  You question our pay and retirement, but have no idea what goes into being a police officer.  We work a career of shift work that is unstable at best.  To put it short, we put ourselves in harm’s way and do so because we believe in what is good and just.  I have never seen a group of human beings that felt their elected position entitled them to some form of royalty status the way you do.  Your arrogance disgusts me and if you truly cared about your constituents and the city you govern you would not let your arrogance drive your belief system.   

I remember the first time I met Righeimer and Mensinger.  They were touring the police department and entered the SED office.  I regretfully shook both of their hands.  Mensinger asked if I had served in the military and deployed.  When he found out I served in, Iraq his next comment was “leave them where they lay” in reference to my combat experience.  Obviously he has zero clue as to what combat is really like. He thought that I would somehow embrace his falsely motivated comment and revere him as some type of powerful figure.  I actually have been disgusted by his comment to this day, and even more irritated that he made an attempt to relate to my own personal experiences.   

I was once a registered Republican.  Because of the three of you, I am now a registered Independent.  I only wish and hope you are all exposed for your true worth in the very near future. 

This letter may have a few negative parts, but only if the shoe fits.  Thank you all for the memories.  Stay safe and God speed. 

Jake

“All that is needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (E. Burke)    

GOOD-BYE AND GOOD LUCK
Well, there you have it.  We, of course, wish him well in his new assignment, and understand the decision that forced the move.  Sadly, this feeling is NOT an aberration.  Other officers who have recently departed have privately expressed similar sentiments.  Officer Slechta chose to express them publicly.

THE TIPPING POINT
This officer is precisely the kind of officers we should be finding ways to retain.  A Marine veteran with ten years service, including a tour in Iraq,  Officer Slechta spent eight years with the CMPD and is acknowledged by his superiors as an outstanding officer.  Something simply MUST change before we pass the tipping point where, regardless the number of overtime hours, the CMPD will simply not be able to provide safe coverage for our city.  Chief Gazsi and the staff are actively recruiting new officers every day, but the time it takes to process the applications, screen them, test them, then run them through the academy can be as long as a year before they show up for work.

LAWSUIT ON THIN ICE
In an interesting bit of timing Bradley Zint published an excellent article in the Daily Pilot this afternoon that covers decisions made last Wednesday in the lawsuit filed by Righeimer and Mensinger against the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department and others.  You can read it HERE.   This is a complex issue which I think Zint managed to accurately capture.  Both sides seem pleased with parts of the decision.  The best news, as far as I'm concerned, is that ONLY private investigator Chris Lanzillo will be deposed AND, unless Righeimer and Mensinger's lawyer can come up with a more compelling case against the CMPOA by March 25th, the judge is likely to throw out that part of the lawsuit.  The only exception I would take with the article is the characterization of Righeimer being administered a "field sobriety test".  That phrase conjures up him being asked to put his finger to his nose, walk a straight line and being administered a Breathalyzer.  None of that happened.  He was asked by Officer Kha Bao - our most highly decorated DUI officer - simply to follow a light with his eyes for a few seconds.  Bao, based on his experience, determined that Righeimer was not impaired and that ended the encounter.

SPEAK UP!
The residents of this community MUST speak up to let their elected leaders know just how unsatisfactory this situation has become.  Response times are getting longer because we just don't have enough cops on the street.  Until the residents speak up there is no incentive for the current council majority to do anything - except sue the members of the Costa Mesa Police Department, that is.  Shame on them.

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14 Comments:

Blogger Joe said...

Righeimer,Mensinger,Monahan,and all the bootlickers can go straight to hell. How arrogant does someone have to be to allow a situation where over 100,000 men, women and children are in danger every day?

Why does Righeimer hate the people of Costa Mesa so much?

3/07/2014 06:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Those three should pray to God that no harm comes to anyone because of what they've helped create.

3/07/2014 06:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Does this surprise anyone in Costa Mesa? Thanks to planning Rig-Bots, the problem will take root here:

http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-crowding-20140308,0,7743497,full.story#axzz2vKumoKpu

3/07/2014 07:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Skeptical in Costa Mesa said...

If this doesn't bring at least a slight tear to your eye you're either dead or extremely dehydrated. This officer was an experienced very valuable member for our PD. Pissed away by 3 elected morons. I understand riggy and the 'wanna be prince' messinger. They have higher office in mind and our little burg is just a stepping stone to be used as such. But Gary must have his head so far up the other two collective butts he can't see straight. What is going to be said when one of our officers is wounded or worse by some Brown early release candidate because patrols were too short handed to respond in the required strength? What then?

3/07/2014 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger Ltpar said...

A very articulate and well spoken message. Don't know where the Officer went, but I hope it was Irvine.

3/07/2014 08:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Dumb Biker said...

Just to put Jake's comments in perspective, he was one bad ass Marine and I mean bad ass not to mention highly intelligent, intuitive, humble and honest. This is the guy you want on your side in business or combat so this is no sissy boy. I believe he would normally brush the people he was referring to off his sleeve like a mosquito but as a man who is first and foremost loyal to his company he had to speak as a TRUE PATRIOT and let his feelings be known in order to best serve his compatriots. Thank you sir.

3/07/2014 09:01:00 PM  
Blogger Allen Huggins said...

I commend Officer Slechta for his departing letter. It takes courage to speak up for what he believes is right. His voice is not alone.

CMPD's loss of Officer Slechta to another department should not be taken lightly. He, along with many other excellent officers have recently left CMPD not to other lines of work or other areas of the country, but to other police departments in the Southern California area.

Righeimer, Mensinger and Monahan are ideologues who put their own selfish interests above what is best for the City of Costa Mesa. Public Safety should be the number one priority and it is not. One only has to watch what they do, and not listen to their rhetoric to know what is true.

That Costa Mesa cannot field a force of 100 able bodied officers is a travesty. It wasn't that long ago when the CMPD was had staffing numbers of 164 sworn officers, with 155 or more able to patrol the streets and keep the community safe.

Did the number of people in the city decrease by one-third? Did the calls for service decrease by one-third? The answer is no.

What has decreased is the willingness of personnel at the PD to tolerate the disparaging comments from the City Council majority and their ill-conceived, know-it-all attitude. Why should they stay and deal with such a caustic City Council and toxic working environment? They have been patient for several years, hoping that things would change. That things would get better. They have not.

I hope the community of Costa Mesa is starting to wake up to what is happening. There are still excellent personnel at the PD, working diligently trying to provide public safety with a skeleton staff. They care. They want to help keep the City safe. They want to provide the quality of service the community has come to expect. The problem is there are too few trying to do the work of many.

3/07/2014 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Arthur Nern highlighted an amazing article. Costa Mesa, ZIP Code 92627, is in the top 1% of overcrowding in the United States.

Don't hope for Costa Mesa to wake up. Make it happen. Talk to friends and family now.

3/07/2014 11:29:00 PM  
Anonymous James Rivera said...

How dare these elected representatives question the pay of city staff, ie, police officer??! Mr Slechta, you reflect the exact arrogance you decry with your statement.

3/08/2014 06:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

Mr. Rivera, I don't understand your comment. The officer who wrote the letter was not being arrogant. Everyone knows that there has to be give and take in pay negotiations and especially pensions or the city will go broke. Certain councilmen are being arrogant not because they are trying to get city finances under control, but because of the way they are going about it. They cut back on the police department and keep adding executive jobs at city hall. At meetings they are rude to members of the public. Watch a city council meeting and see what is going on.

3/08/2014 07:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Well that actually took longer than expected Mr. Rivera. Attack, attack, attack and all the while stick our heads in the sand. Yes, it is the job of the "Elected" officials to always find ways to better provide service, but I wonder, should they also follow the recommendations of their own consultants and experts? Many of the officers, with years of experience are leaving and taking pay cuts. Pay cuts in order to have a better working environment, better support, and more opportunity that doesn't involve being sued by temporary, short term, "Elected" officials. What I find so amazing is that people fail to remember that the employees of this City are in it for a long haul while many "Elected" officials are in it as a stepping stone for higher office. Better opportunity next door, just go ahead and move. Fortunately, as a life long Republican, I doubt that Jim or Steve have a snowballs chance in hell of climbing up any electoral tree. No matter how hard they try. Now, as I mentioned at the beginning, it is the responsibility of the City Council and Management to always look at ways to better serve the community. But will you say the same regarding ALL of the issues of Costa Mesa's 60th Birthday Party, attorney's fees, and bad decision after bad decision? It should go both ways, should it not? Meanwhile, Costa Mesa is hemorrhaging Police Officers and the real loser is the community. However, no matter how many officers, including CHIEFS of the Department, who criticize the current Council Majority will be chastised by the like's of you who blindly support a political, ideological agenda. It's time to open your eyes and look at the problems of this community with a common sense approach that doesn't involve politics. Now, please let the attack begin on my character.....

3/08/2014 07:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Hey .., little "Kenny Nyqiust, are you still trying to help the poor propel who live in the mobile home park behind Sandpiper? I hear you left them high and dry.

3/08/2014 09:30:00 PM  
Blogger bill mitchell said...

This is very sad. Costa Mesa has one of the best police departments in the nation and Ringworm the tall guy who still thinks he is in high school football and Moonshine do not appreciate what they have at all. Lets make that majority disappear come November.

3/10/2014 08:26:00 AM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

Thank you, Officer Slechta for coming forward with your excellent first hand account of what it is like to work under the current council majority in our city.
Thank you for your many years of service, helping to keep our city safe. Our CMPD and officers are excellent yet have been demonized by Righeimer & Co. since they came into power. They claim to like our CM Police officers, yet do everything in their power to undermine them.
Our mayor and mayor pro tem are suing them, that's how much they "like" them.
Thank you again, Officer Slechta.

3/10/2014 04:03:00 PM  

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