Friday, September 13, 2013

Public Safety Rally Tuesday At City Hall

Just a reminder that our friends at Costa Mesans For Responsible Government (CM4RG) are holding a community rally in support of Costa Mesa public safety personnel next Tuesday, September 17th, in front of Costa Mesa City Hall from 5 - 6 p.m.  This is the evening of the City Council meeting and it will be in a Closed Session meeting during that hour.

Costa Mesa public safety organizations - Police and Fire - have been under siege by the current city council majority for a couple years.  The council established unrealistic staffing levels and wouldn't let the departments hire replacements in anticipation of departures/retirements for most of that time.

For months the council refused to permit the City to hire a permanent Fire Chief, leaving a tremendous leadership vacuum in that department.  We were without a Chief, Deputy Chief and Fire Marshall and, after he spoke out in response to a question from the council, the Emergency Medical Technician Coordinator had his position eliminated and he was gone - poof!

Interim Chief Tom Arnold - retired Deputy Fire Chief from Newport Beach and a Costa Mesa resident -  was finally able, after multiple presentations, to convince the council to change the deployment model and use emergency medical equipment instead of fire trucks for most calls - but that process took month and was like pulling teeth to get the council to agree.  They only agreed because that deployment model requires fewer fire staff and potentially saves a lot of money.  And, now - after years of vacancies in the senior leadership ranks -  there is finally a recruitment going on for a new, permanent Fire Chief.

During that time, in order to keep us safe, fire department personnel were required to work hundreds of hours of overtime each year.  One battalion chief had to work over 4,000 hours in one calendar year.  But, rather than thank him for his tireless dedication and for sacrificing valuable family time, he became the tip of the spear of derision by certain councilmen, who portrayed members of the CMFD as greedy.  And, despite all that, the firefighters and their depleted leadership staff continued to provide coverage to keep us safe.

In the case of the CMPD, we are currently at staffing levels not seen for decades.  The current authorized sworn staff is 131, down from 164 just a few years ago, and yet the population of our city grows and the demand for services increases.  And yet, your council arbitrarily pulled staffing level numbers out of the air without ANY way to support them.  Today we have fewer than 110 officers ready and able to report for duty.  By early spring of next year, when considering all the planned retirements between now and then and the known planned departures to other police agencies, it is very possible the CMPD will only be able to field fewer than 100 officers to protect us.

The two top elected officials in our city, Mayor Jim Righeimer and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger, have sued your police officers for a situation that appears unrelated to them, claiming severe physical and emotional distress and an inability to earn a living.  This lawsuit is the exclamation point on more than two years of rancor between Righeimer, in particular, and the CMPD.

And, despite all this, Chief Tom Gazsi and the remaining men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department continue to do their jobs in a very professional way.  They show up, suit up and do the job we pay them to do - protect and serve us to the best of their ability.

So, a big thank you to the Costa Mesans For Responsible Government for organizing this event.  I hope each of you and your friends and neighbors will take an hour out of your evening to join them in this show of support for the men and women who protect and serve us every hour of every day.

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Anonymous Rob said...

The City is ALREADY doing what this rally is supposed to demand. With the City actively recruiting officers, and authorized to hire more, what does this rally hope to accomplish? The people of Costa Mesa already overwhelmingly support our police and fire.

Sure smells like politics to me. Let the games begin...

9/13/2013 08:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Robin Leffler said...

Thank you for posting about the rally, Geoff

We want all our public safety employees to know people in Costa Mesa love, respect and support them. And appreciate them for the dedication and professionalism they show everyday, day after day.

Robin Leffler
Costa Mesans for Responsible Government

9/13/2013 09:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Robin Leffler said...

The City council majority decided to shrink the Police force below recommended staffing levels in mid-2011, even though it was less than their chosen consultant said was safe. Retirements, attrition, pending release of parolees was all foreseen and warned against. There was a crucial period where we could have avoided the shortage we have now, but no hiring was allowed.

Politics? Yeah, but not mine. I’m not the one who declared Costa Mesa “Ground Zero” for a grand political experiment. Because of City Council’s lack of foresight, or stubbornness, or thinking they know better than the experts, my neighbors and I have suffered break-ins, emotional stress, loss of kidding, it’s been very costly to the taxpayers peace of mind and pocketbook. The increase in crime has caused a lot of anxiety, and the loss of personal property has cost residents a considerable ding in the pocket book. Some things can’t be replaced.

The Police have done well at doing more with less, but it’s not enough. IF the council continues to open the purse strings, and IF they can give employees the security that comes from respect and good faith, and IF enough high quality recruits can be found willing to come to Costa Mesa, it will still take a while to catch up. Meanwhile we are vulnerable, and it was preventable.

9/14/2013 02:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Ms. Leffler,
Don't forget to follow the mayor and mayor pro tem's example and file suit for the emotional distress. Or maybe the whole city can sue Mensinger, Riggy, and Monahan for emotional distress. It's the new in thing thanks to our so-called "leaders."

Looks like the big plaintiffs, Riggy and Mensy, will have to recuse themselves from negotiations on the police contract now.

9/14/2013 07:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Squad 51 said...

I had an interesting conversation with a police officer the other day about what's going on in CM.
It turned to the realities of recruiting, hiring and retaining officers and I mentioned that it was front page news in the Pilot recently that Costa Mesa had hired a new police officer. He said the fact that that was "news" was a political statement to try and show that hiring is not an issue.

Then he told me something else... Costa Mesa is in fact a perfect training ground for other cities. Officer new hires with academy training only and no previous actual experience can come here and get through their probationary period, getting field training and POST Certs at Costa Mesa's expense, and then can move very easily to departments in other cities like Newport and Anaheim.

He said that young officers just starting their careers, want to have the opportunity to promote into specialties (detective, canine, swat, airborne) and those are no longer available in a deflating dept like Costa Mesa.

New officers who are still at a relatively low pay scale don't have to take a salary hit to move, and after next years contract disaster, may very well add a pay raise to the incentive to seek employment elsewhere.

So... it's not just the retirements that will keep the CMPD in a understaffed condition.

When they say we've hired x number of new officers, the next question should be... yea but how many of them will still be here in five years and why would they?

9/14/2013 01:07:00 PM  
Anonymous dumbbiker said...

Speaking for myself , yes this is politics if what you mean by that is showing support for our public safety people and having a chance to talk to any who will listen about how the current council majority has decimated them. You say they are doing what they are supposed to but what you didn't say is they are completely f'ing up the process as they have done with everything else they have touched. It's a simple fact that a 2ND grader could have done a better job. They have the taxpayers to bail them out, if this were a for profit business it would have gone the way of their other business transactions. There is no good statistic about them you can name without reminding people that the legal fees they have incurred and are incurring far exceeds anything they have done especially when what they take credit for were things that were scheduled before they took office. If you mean helping people to decide that these guys and their cronies should never hold public office again, then yes it is political for me.

9/15/2013 12:45:00 PM  

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