Monday, September 30, 2013

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.

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. 

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Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Thank you Dave Snowdon. Don't worry about the council majority trying to shift the blame to Chief Gazsi. I believe most residents know the truth and we have the utmost respect for him and his officers and the conditions they must endure.

You are instrumental in building this city and its fine force. We will never forget that.

9/30/2013 06:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Tough call. Who should we believe about police issues- the retail clerk/manager turned realtor and political bootlicker, or the law enforcement officer who protected our city with distinction?

9/30/2013 06:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Steve Staveley said...

Well said Dave, well said. You are of course, 100% correct especially about your comments regarding crime stats. One North County city was famous for only reporting theft from garages as petty theft, even when the garage had been broken into. It was a policy decision they made, but it made surrounding cities who followed the proper procedure in such reporting seem to have a greater problem in residential burgs. Making sure that all crime is reported is key to improving the safety and security picture in any community.

It took you and your team a long time to make CMPD the envy of other agencies and communities, building on the great foundational work of Roger Neth and his team. It will take Tom and his team a long time to build it back, but they have the right kind of folks - not enough - but the best and brightest so it is possible, but it will take a long time. Greatness if fragile and requires tender care and the proper level of resource. Still it can be done and the troops and the community deserve it.

Steve Staveley Director, Division of Law Enforcement, Department of Justice, State of California (ret)

9/30/2013 08:37:00 AM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Yet another bad move by Fisler and the Gang of Incompetents to manufacture a quote. We all know they can barely run a city, but when they make boneheaded mistakes in politics, well, it's easier to laugh than it is to cry.

9/30/2013 08:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Eleanor Egan said...

Thank you, Dave, for setting the record straight as well as for all your years of sterling service to our community.

Would you consider submitting your commentary to the Daily Pilot and/or the O. C. Register so more people will learn the truth?

9/30/2013 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger valan2 said...

Thanks to our former Police Chiefs Snowden and Stavely for sharing their professional opinions on the Costa Mesa situation. Their comments are based on decades of education and experience in law enforcement - at all levels, in many cities. They are also consistent with what we continue to hear from other current and retired CMPD Officers, and from the law enforcement consultants hired by this Council a few years ago, whose recommendations were also rejected by the Council men.

When will the Council majority stop their "the rest of the band is out of step" approach and realize that they are leading us clear off the field (to continue the band analogy)?

The realities of public safety needs in Costa Mesa should trump the political fantasies of a few men whose objectives seem to be elsewhere.

9/30/2013 01:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Robin Leffler said...

Why would a comment disappear from the Pilot string? If enough people report it as spam/abuse to FaceBook does FB take it down? Is it just a logarithm that decides? If either is true, it’s pretty easy to suppress a comment that some may fear make too much sense, and it wouldn’t be the first time I've seen it happen when the Pilot posts something unfavorable to the council "majority".

9/30/2013 08:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Ken Nyquist said...

I asked the editor of the Pilot this morning if they had pulled the post, and was told that if it was in the Pilot, they did not pull it, nor would they. He claimed the FB abuse algorithm would be the only way it would vanish from the Pilot.
He was going to look into it.
Time will tell who knows what happened.

9/30/2013 10:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Robin Leffler said...

Thanks Ken. I also got an answer from the Pilot editor. Of course they didn't pull it. I didn't think they did. It had to be abuse of the spam/abuse button. Only other Facebook subscribers can do that, and it takes quite a few before Facebook’s algorithm will take it down. That's what’s so disturbing about a comment vanishing like that.

So my next questions:

Who would be so petty that they would report a civil and articulate comment as spam or abuse? Some people may like what was said, some may not, but this was certainly not spam or abuse.

Who would want to suppress Chief Snowden’s right to free speech?
Were they afraid of the truth?

10/01/2013 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

Robin- Yes they are afraid of the truth. The truth hurts them and it certainly hurts their agenda.

10/01/2013 04:30:00 PM  

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