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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
letter may have a few negative parts, but only if the
shoe fits. Thank you all for the memories. Stay safe
and God speed.
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.
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.
Labels: CMPD, Gary Monahan, Jacob Slechta, Jim Righeimer, Officer Kha Bao, Steve Mensinger, Tom Gazsi