Wednesday, March 15, 2017

CMPD Chief Sharpnack Holds A Town Hall

Last night Costa Mesa Police Chief Rob Sharpnack held a Town Hall at Vanguard University, co-hosted by the university, MIKA Community Development and the CMPD.

Approximately forty (40) members of the community met with Sharpnack as he outlined the current status of the Costa Mesa Police Department and the challenges facing our city and many others due to legislation and other influences.
MIKA Community Development Executive Director Keturah Kennedy introduced Chief Sharpnack and community activist Walter, the interpreter that would provide Spanish/English interpretation for most of the evening.  Approximately half of the audience appeared to be Spanish-speakers.  I was later told the effort for this meeting was specifically directed to the Latino community.
Sharpnack was assisted by the new Public Affairs Manager for the CMPD, Roxi Fyad, who also made a presentation demonstrating her recent efforts in community outreach - videos, social media, press releases, etc.  She also mentioned that the CMPD will be resurrecting the Neighborhood Watch Program.  Information about how to apply for the program can be found HERE.
Sharpnack told us the CMPD current authorized staffing level for sworn officers is 136.  Currently they are staffed at 115, but three of those are out injured.  Three (3) new officers will graduate from the academy this month.  Three (3) more just began the academy so it will be around 3 months before they graduate.  He expects to have 5 or 6 more candidates in the next academy class.  When asked how long he thought it would take to get staffed-up, he said that - presuming no departures between now and then, by the end of 2018.  He also told us they have no planned retirements in 2017 and 2018.

He spoke about the impact of legislation - AB 109 and Props 47 and 57 - on the community.  These combined to effectively put more criminals back on the streets of our communities.  He told us that since the passage of Prop. 47 in 2014 crime is up 34%.  He did tell us, though, that Part 1 Crimes in Costa Mesa have dipped this year.  In January they were down 5% and in February they were down 7.13%.  You can view the Crime Stats from the City web site HERE.  If you wish to view the Crime Map, go HERE.  Go HERE to the main CMPD site on the City site, which will provide you other links to important pages.  He spoke about the monthly meetings he and his command staff have to analyze crime statistics and plan for staff deployment to "hot" areas.

Regarding AB109, he suggested community members speak to their legislators to try to get that bill amended.

He also spoke of the impact of Sober Living Homes, which contribute to our growing Homelessness problem, and also in the incidences of crimes of opportunity - car break-ins, burglaries, etc.  He expressed concern about the dropouts who end up on our streets, basically homeless and with addiction problems.

He stressed the need for community involvement, expressing the viewpoint that it's critical for the CMPD to build trust within the community.  He asked for the community to be alert to the areas around them.  If you see a crime, or suspect a crime, report it!  "If you see it, say it!"
Sharpnack took many questions from attendees.  One, from a Latina woman, wondered about the Costa Mesa Police Department's policies regarding immigration, citing the current national discussion about immigration/deportation.  He told her that nothing has changed with the CMPD - nobody will be stopped for an immigration question.  Only stops will be made if a crime is suspected.  I wondered if that question would come up because Allan Mansoor is back on the dais now and, during his last tour, the Latino community was terrorized by the specter of ICE raids and Mansoor's placement of an ICE agent in the Jail.
A couple community members cited recent crimes involving them or their neighborhoods.

Sharpnack spoke of his goal to re-staff the specialty units that are so vital to the effective policing of our city.  Those will typically be filled as new officers are hired and more senior officers are promoted.  Those units were decimated when the staffing level was cut and officers left in droves for early retirement and other jurisdictions.  These units are Traffic (special events, Fair, etc.); Community Policing (2); School Resource Officers (2); South Coast Plaza (3); Bike Patrol; Gang Unit; Special Investigations Unit; Detective Bureau (currently fully staffed).  He also hopes to staff a K-9 Unit and somehow find a way to get more social worker time with his officers to help with his PERT program - the so-called 5150 stops - mental health issues.  Right now he has the services of one person part time a couple days a week.

A question was asked about street closures and Sharpnack responded with the story of Shalimar Street, which was closed at one end to stop the drive-by activities.  He said that neighborhood was in peril, but it has changed significantly now.
He was asked about Homelessness in the city and spoke about being part of the original Homeless Task Force a couple years ago.  He briefly explained some of the efforts of that group - visiting other cities to monitor best practices.  He spoke about the need for transitional housing and praised Assistant City Manager Rick Francis and Muriel Ullman for their work getting homeless folks in contact with family and assisted returning home - wherever that happens to be.
He also spoke about the Neighborhood Watch program and told us he wants his department to be proactive, not reactive
Questions were asked about air support.  He explained that since the dissolution of the ABLE program we contract with Huntington Beach to use their helicopter on an on-call basis.  I chimed in that we're spending around $20,000 a month for that service.

Sharpnack addressed Human Trafficking, citing that it is the #2 crime in the world.  He trains his officers to be alert for the signs of that problem and resolve them.

He mentioned the difficulty with Prop. 64, the legalization of Marijuana in the state.  He spoke of the increase of drug DUI cases and the potency of the so-called "edibles" - brownies, cookies, candies.
He acknowledged the contribution of Diane Hill and her United Neighbors newsletters that spread the news about current issues, including crime-related issues, throughout the city.  Here she is shown passing communications from concerned Halecrest neighbors to Sharpnack.

He told us he's going to resurrect the Citizen's Volunteer Patrol program, where civilians are placed in vehicles to do things like vacation checks, etc.

The meeting was worthwhile, although I think the sponsors expected a larger crowd.  The room would have easily held 100 people comfortably.  Well, kind of comfortably... I discovered that the fold up writing desk will not accommodate my expanded girth.  Ah, to be young and a student again!
When Sharpnack spoke of returning the CMPD to the days when he was first hired - the best police department in Orange County - many in the crowd applauded.  Thanks to Chief Sharpnack, Roxi Fyad, MIKA Community Development and Vanguard University for providing this opportunity to learn more about the public safety issues in our city.  More such events are planned in the near future.

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