Thursday, January 09, 2014

Chief Snowden Rebuts Righeimer

At the Costa Mesa City Council meeting Tuesday night Mayor Jim Righeimer - a man who has demonstrated that he is anti-police since he moved to town and emphasized that point when he filed a lawsuit against the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department - in response to a speaker's comment, angrily told the audience that the CMPD is NOT understaffed.  Many of us knew that he, in a typical knee jerk reaction, fudged the facts.  Heck - he flat-out lied!  Not only is the CMPD critically understaffed, but later CEO Tom Hatch also told us that the total city staffing is down from 611 to 410 presently, and that there are 40 positions being actively recruited.  We've lost senior staffers in droves, taking with them years of training, skill and institutional knowledge.  We now see the result of that loss every day, and at every meeting, when staff just doesn't have the time - and, in some cases, the horsepower - to meet the service demands.  The result is that major segments of the organization, and major projects, are being run by contractors - consultants with no long-term commitment to The City.  Righeimer commanded Hatch to provide information on just how many people have left for other jobs.  He may regret that move.  He's not going to like the answer.

Today former Costa Mesa Police Chief - and current Beverly Hills Chief - Dave Snowden sent me a note for publication.  The following is his response to Righeimer's comment:

If anyone truly believes that CMPD is not under-staffed as the Mayor stated last night they haven't been paying attention. Righeimer knows that the PD is understaffed and that it is mostly due to the actions of he and his other two cronies on the dais. They led the exodus of officers to other agencies and retirement! Officers are being force drafted for 16 hour shifts right now to cover vacancies. That is insane! In 2003 the PD had an authorized staff of about 164 sworn officers. Today they are lucky to have 100 officers available to protect the city. For the first two years or more of Chief Gazsi's tour of duty he was not allowed by Righeimer and his pals on the council to even recruit to fill the vacancies! They are now actively recruiting. Then I find out that Righeimer and Mensinger are suing the POA! What a wonderful recruitment tool that is. CMPD is and always has been a remarkable department with the finest officers in OC. It saddens me to see them working in such unsafe conditions because of low staffing levels and with a complete lack of support from the city council majority.

I was very happy to see most of the department at the recent department photo shoot and at the 60th Anniversary celebration at the PD. Chief Roger Neth and I were invited to attend both events by Chief Gazsi. We were also asked to speak, which we did. While I was speaking, I was looking at the helipad. That reminded me of another stupid decision made by this council majority. They voted to disband the best airborne law enforcement JPA on the planet. Yet another chip off the foundation that built the city’s safety record.

Last Friday, I along with members of my department and many from CMPD, attended the funeral of former CMPD officer Gabe Coyoca. I hired Gabe in 1996 when I was CMPD’s chief and I hired him again in Beverly Hills in 2005. Sadly, he passed away after a short battle with leukemia after being exposed to chemicals while working as a narcotics detective. It was a sad day, but I couldn’t help being moved by the presence of so many fine, proud officers from both departments who were there to honor a fallen comrade. 

If any officer is either seriously injured or, God forbid, loses their life because of an inability to field a safe complement of officers to insure their safety, I will hold this council majority DIRECTLY responsible. 

 Snowden is a man who guided the CMPD for seventeen years and is responsible for helping to build it into one of the finest law enforcement organizations in the state.  He holds the City of Costa Mesa dear to his heart and is deeply distressed with what has been happening over the past three years.  He is shown below at the recent 60th Anniversary Party for the CMPD with current Chief Tom Gazsi and former Chief Roger Neth.

Labels: , , , , ,


Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

The brand is strong!!!

1/09/2014 12:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Dumbbiker said...

I just had lunch today with one of my friends at CMPD. Talk always turns to staffing levels and how we are in a critical situation and how it's getting worse. I was told that just this week a few more officers have chosen to go work for another city and the reason given was the same as it has been for the last couple of years THE COUNCIL MAJORITY and the toxic effect they have had on the workplace. I don't know how many officers are leaving but was told it might be as many as four. There is no way to defend this situation, none at all.

1/09/2014 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Chief Snowden knows Costa Mesa much better than Righeimer and Mensinger ever will and I commend him for speaking out. His perspective on the staffing is very accurate and his comments are heart felt.

Approximately 3 years ago, an outside auditor hired by the City suggested the staffing at the Police Department (PD) should be at 132, which in my opinion, is still way too low for a proactive law enforcement agency the community has come to expect. The population in Costa Mesa hasn't gone down since 2003, when the PD had an authorized staffing number of 164, so why the large decrease in allowable staffing?

Today, the PD has approximately 100 officers available to staff the PD. You can't effectively manage public safety when you are operating at such significantly low staffing levels. Basically, you can only answer the calls for service and any proactive programs are put on hold. Again, this is not what the community has come to expect.

The long-term effects will be problematic for many, many years. How do you attract and hire quality applicants with the reputation the PD now has? How do you keep the outstanding personnel the PD already has?

If you really want to know how devastating the City Council majority has been on the PD (an other City departments), just look at the facts. The PD has, until the last few years, been a place of destination. Yes, we had a few officers lateral to other departments, but that was rare. In the last few years, approximately 10% of the officers have left for other Southern California police departments. Folks, that means they left because they didn't want to work in the environment that now exists, not because they wanted to live somewhere else.

When you ask yourself why, look no further than the antagonistic city council, and how they treat the employees. It hasn't been about necessary change, it has been about the egos of the council majority.

The Costa Mesa community deserves much better. I should know, as I served the community for over 27 years.

1/09/2014 02:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Who should we believe about law enforcement- Snowden or Righeimer? Who would you trust your life to if forced to choose- Snowden or Righeimer?
Me? Snowden.
Thanks Chief. Can't you find a corner on Rodeo Drive for our little friend to hawk star home maps or something?

1/09/2014 03:41:00 PM  
Anonymous xyn bohemia said...

to chief snowden,
thank you so much for your comments.

and i am so sorry for the loss of your officer and friend...
my thoughts are with you and all the loved ones in gabriel's life... it is very fitting that this man has the name of an angel...

1/09/2014 03:42:00 PM  
Anonymous SQUAD 51 said...

The only thing that is going to save the CMPD is for the voters to show Righeimer the door in November and vote a council majority in that can immediately make it clear that they are going to reverse everything he's done and start doing it from day one.

There are officers in that 100 with apps out for other depts. right now so that number will continue to get smaller in spite of the recruiting that is going on.

If Righeimer is re-elected, it is just a matter of time until the OCSD will have come in.

How far down does staffing have to go before that conversation starts?

I don't know, but maybe it would be good to start it before the next election.

1/09/2014 05:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Thank you Officer Huggins and Chief Snowden. I hope the other officers will hold on until after November to see what happens.

I can't wait to see how long it takes Fisler to try to put a spin on these commentaries. That should be worth a laugh...ACK! The brand is strong, Polly wanna cracker? ACK! The brand is strong.

Oh, BTW, when is he going to destroy us with the screen shots?

1/09/2014 06:23:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

Thank you, Chief Snowden for speaking out for our great CMPD and against the madness that is the Righeimer regime.
Like 'Where's My Coffee?' stated, I too hope our officers hold on until after November's election when hopefully voters will NOT re-elect Righeimer.
Thanks, again Chief Snowden.
And thank you for your many years of service to our city and for helping create our great CMPD

1/09/2014 08:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Hold em Accountable said...

Simply stated....

Why would a QUALITY applicant come to Costa Mesa when there are other cities hiring?

Only ONE reason....To get hired, trained, and get a POST Certificate at CM expense, then run to another city!

Riggy---You Killed the PD.... Happy now?

1/09/2014 08:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Atlas Shrunk said...

I am generally in favor of a strong, well-equipped, community-minded, police force that has not been militarized. The increased militarization of police that has been occurring since the 1980's is a whole subject of discussion for another time.
If we were to increase staffing levels, how would we pay for it?
Though overtime would, in theory, be reduced and if management ensured that pyramiding and compounding of overtime did not occur, there would be savings from reduced average hourly rate (less time-and-a-half). However there would be increased costs for health insurance and retirement pay contributions for the newly hired officers.

I don't have the answer for the question.
In our city, raising any form of taxes seems like a non-starter and though property tax revenue and sales tax revenue will increase as the economy slowly grinds its way upward, it will take a long time to increase the funding available for the police department by 30%, which is my rough estimate of how much would be needed to get us back to a decent level of staffing.

1/09/2014 10:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Robin Leffler said...

After Righeimer made that impulsive and totally false response to Sue Lester’s public comments I was really glad I had not been among the chosen few who got to address the council early in the meeting. What I planned to talk about was what a handicap it is to some people to make them wait until the end of the meeting to speak (of those who didn’t make the cut, at least six were not able to stay until they would be graciously permitted to speak.) however at that moment I was so glad I would have the opportunity to tell the truth to his untruth, I could have kissed him.

How could he have possibly thought no one would call him on such a blatant misstatement?

Former Chief Snowden did it masterfully. I hope the voters are paying attention. I don’t think anyone would vote for Jim if they knew how dispensable he thinks truth is. Thank you for this blog Geoff.

1/09/2014 10:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Robin Leffler said...

Atlas, I think part of what the mayor said was true - the PD is fully funded. If not fully, at least the budget was finally approved to hire to 125 or 26 sworn officers. It just wasn't approved in time to prepare for this exodus. A number of retirements were anticipated because we have an aging police force, and there is a certain percentage of attrition from injuries, but losses were much higher than anticipated. The Council majority refused to approve new hires until fairly recently, when enough residents were feeling the impacts of a reduced police force for it to become politically embarrassing. It takes a long time to train recruits. There is also the little problem of attracting them.

We have the money. The council just blew through a $7.1 million budget surplus.
We also had an officer who was a top revenue generator for the seizure of cash and property in drug busts. He was one of the highest achievers of drug related forfeitures in southern California, and the proceeds went toward equipment and property improvements for the PD. We just lost him to Anaheim.

1/10/2014 12:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Steve Staveley said...

While wearing my consultants hat ( 5th floor seems to respect that more than the opinion of experts in house and there remain many in the PD), 126 is still way short of needed 138 - 140 as minimum.

Dave of course is 100% correct in his observations and his skill understanding and unique knowledge of CMPD and Costa Mesa cannot be overstated. His knowledge of the policing profession is highly regarded throughout the nation and yet the majority won't listen.

I keep hoping, that the council majority will "shake their head and get back in the ballgame" after the errors they made - but I fear it is a forlorn hope and that great department will continue to suffer even as the leadership continues to work their butts off to make it better.

A department that wants to do more than just respond to calls - such as doing community policing and community building - addressing the range of needs of a community including homelessness, safety and security of schools, parks and neighborhoods needs a basic level of deployment of special folks in both the sworn and professional individual ranks. In the sworn ranks, that means minimums of 138 to 140 - less than that you get response to calls, and law enforcement but you don't get community policing and you don't get community building. It is going to take years, to rebuild CMPD even with the great people that remain there.

Council majority may not like that, and they may not like people saying it, but it is the way it is. Truth is sometimes hard and the truth is that everything they said they wanted to do - reduce costs, get a handle on pensions costs etc. could have been achieved without this level of disruption and destruction. It is such a waste.

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

1/10/2014 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

Thank you, Officer Huggins and Chief Staveley.
Your many years of service to our CMPD, our city and its residents are very appreciated.
You speak from experience and know the staffing needed for our CMPD.
The toxic work environment coupled with Righeimer and Mensinger suing the CMPOA have made recruiting new officers more difficult.
I am very grateful for the officers who are still there. Hopefully, next November's election will bring in more council members who will work with our CMPD, not against them.
Wendy and Sandy have been working with our CMPD.
We need more council members like them.

1/10/2014 08:53:00 PM  
Blogger Cindy Lou Who said...

THANK YOU Chief Snowden for stating so concisely what our CMPD officers are up against and where we as a community stand. If people understood this fully they would be scared. As they should be. It's going to get worse before it gets better.
Thank you also Steve and Allen for emphasizing the fact that our numbers should be closer to 135-140. With our staffing near 100, other officers applying for laterals, injuries and more retirees on the horizon the safety of our community is in jeopardy. The council majority has created an impossible situation. It could be a lot worse without Chief Gazsi working so hard to not only recruit but also working to keep the great officers we have. PLEASE hang in there with us (the community) until November. We believe in you, we love our PD (and FD) and we are working hard to help ensure a better future for us all.

1/14/2014 08:40:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home