Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Current Adds Fuel To The Fire!(Amended)*

Today in The Current, the Orange County Register's supplement that serves Costa Mesa and Newport Beach, there is a series of articles by ace reporter Eric Hartley that will add fuel to the already out-of-control controversy about staffing of the Costa Mesa Police Department and the relationship between the department and top elected officials in the city.

The article, which is tucked safely behind the Register's damnable pay wall, can be found HERE if you're a subscriber.  If you are NOT a subscriber, get up and go find a copy of The Current right now! *NOTE:  I found another link that works better, HERE, although all the stories kind run together.  At least you'll have a way to comment on it(them).  Grrrrr!

To give you a flavor for the articles let me present to you the four headlines.  The cover story includes a big photo of Police Chief Tom Gazsi.  Here are the headlines of that story and the three companion pieces which take the entirety of page 3:
  • Hiring is tough beat
  • "Ghost town" experiences stress, delays with historic-low staffing
  • Righeimer sees police talk of shortages as union ploy
  • Department struggles to attract, retain best officers
That should give you an idea of the tone of the articles.

The "Ghost town" article begins by profiling recently-departed officer Kelly Benjamin, who took a 23% pay cut to join a smaller police agency in Los Angeles County.  Benjamin is but one of the many officers who have left the Costa Mesa Police Department over the past couple of years.  I wrote about that at length last week, HERE.   Hartley writes, "Costa Mesa officers have long taken pride in a reputation as one of the best law enforcement agencies in Orange County.  Officers were well-trained and the department was always at the forefront of new tactics and technology, be it a search and rescue team or computers in cars.  Today officers and some residents say, the department is barely holding its head above water and providing 'minimum' service to residents."  Yep, that sounds about right.  Benjamin is one of three Costa Mesa Police Officers who left for that department.  All took pay cuts, longer commutes and pay more for their PERS account.

In the "Righeimer" article Hartley begins with this paragraph: "Ask Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer about problems in the ity Police Department, and he has a ready answer. 'Pure politics.'"  And it goes downhill from there.  Righeimer is later quoted as saying, "This is all about money.  It's all about pensions.  It's all about power."  And, of course, he discusses the circumstances surrounding the whole Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ether law firm, investigator Chris Lanzillo and the bogus lawsuit filed by Righeimer and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger.

In the "Department struggles" article quotes Gazsi extensively, and outlines the pure statistics of the recent staffing/attrition numbers.  He also quotes former president of the police association, Sergeant Ed Everett throughout the articles.  In this one Hartley asks Everett why there is a problem recruiting, to which he responds, "The problem is no one wants to come here."  Yikes!

He then quotes Gazsi, whom he describes as being more diplomatic, as saying, "I think it's because of the challenging political environment."  Yep.

When addressing the recent authorization by the City Council to add four more officers to the staff Hartley quotes Gazsi as saying, "That's a symbolic first step toward rebuilding the department."  Everett has the last word, though.  He says, "We're losing more people than we can bring in, unfortunately."  This morning I heard that at least five (5) more officers may be actively looking for new jobs.  The hemorrhaging continues!

For any resident, or any other person interested in the safety and future of Costa Mesa, Eric Hartley's articles in The Current today are "must read" pieces.  I'm reluctant to give you more for fear of violating the copyright of the author.  Just get up from your chair and go find a news rack in Costa Mesa or Newport Beach and buy the darn Register for these articles!  Do it now!

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Blogger Gericault said...

I can't find the article on line even with a subscription.

2/26/2014 11:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

C'mon Geoff...the brand is strong!

2/26/2014 11:54:00 AM  
Anonymous apple said...

I found the link for the story on the web. Interesting reading. for the story.

2/26/2014 12:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Why does Righeimer put his ambitions above the public's safety?

2/26/2014 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

I had the same problem this morning after reading the stories in print. I immediately wanted to send them to Geoff, but couldn't find them online.
Geoff provides a link in this article to the Current.
It's different from the link posted in the print version.
I'm going to bookmark it.

Riggy's little bogus blast of hot air " it's the union's fault" looks very silly placed right next to an article explaining the real reasons for the shortage in our CMPD.
I hope more journalists in the future use this layout.The truth ALWAYS hurts Righeimer.

Thanks for posting this, Geoff!

2/26/2014 02:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Squad 51 said...

Simple fact is that career police officers want to have a stable and supportive work enviroment. The job is hard enough to do in that enviorment, let alone one that isn't (Costa Mesa today).

One of the things that is important to the men and women who are looking to make a 30+ year career doing this kind of work are the specialty positions.

Those would be positions as detectives and in narcotics, gangs, vice, canine, airborne, etc. All challanging jobs to be sure.

Those are the building blocks and promotional positions that make for a well rounded carrer in these dedicated professional's chosen line of work, and Costa Mesa used to be one of the best destinations for that kind of career.

Those things are, for the most part, gone now. It's just riding in the patrol car, chasing the radio today and as far in the future as todays CMPD officers can see.

In other words... not a "career" in law enforcement. And that's why they're leaving. It doesn't have anything to do with money or retirements.

Hiring police officers has always been a difficult proposition. There a lot of characters out there that want to strap on a gun and a badge and have authority over others. That would be the line around the block that Righeimer likes to talk about.

It's more important in this job to get the right people than any other job I can think of. There are plenty of examples of the wrong person being trusted with that authority every day in the news.

Yes CMPD can hire new recruits out of the acadamy. They'll do their couple of years to get their certs and some experience on their resume and then they too will be looking to move somewhere where there are specialties and the potential for a fulfilling career.

In the mean time.... more are leaving (at a pace faster than can be replaced).

At some point in the future the numbers will not support a truly functional department as far as service and public safety goes and something will have be done to address that.

One of the things that guys like Righeimer, Mensinger and Skosh don't understand is that the people who become dedicated and experienced law enforcement professionals have a much more in depth education and a much higher work ethic than they do.

They are truly professionals, which the guys sitting on this current council are clearly not.

2/26/2014 06:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

According to there have been two burlaries on the Westside and two fires yesterday on Harbor Blvd that were suspicious. THIS IS NOT POLITICS - THIS IS PEOPLES' LIVES AND HOMES.

How dare that little shit not think of the residents involved in this mess and blame it on politics. He is to blame for this and we will not forget it.

36 cars vandalized and one burned. THIS IS NOT POLITICS - THIS IS PEOPLES' LIVES AND HOMES.

Seriously, we need to get rid of this guy and his cohorts, Ramos and Capitelli in November.

2/26/2014 09:23:00 PM  
Anonymous lovemygarden said...

The “pure politics” the Mayor refers to are, in reality, those associated with his ambitions, and have little to do with the hiring problems of the CMPD. His misguided efforts to climb the political ladder by waging a campaign against the union has turned the City into a toxic work environment and a place where employees (not only police officers) are jumping ship faster than rats. The Mayor alleges there is a “whisper campaign” against him. One only has to read the comments on this blog or elsewhere to realize the residents are talking loud and clear about this issue.
With the uptick in real estate development, the City’s population will increase in a few years. More people, more traffic, more accidents and crime. Now we have the money and the authorization to hire more police, but no takers. The Council majority, while vocalizing their loathing of the police, blame the officers and recruits for not wanting to work here. In the meantime, it’s the residents that suffer. Will people really want to live in all those three story plus a rooftop deck homes, if they don’t have emergency services?
Police officers make up the union that the Mayor and Steve Mensinger are suing. Despite the Mayor’s claims that they aren’t suing the officers, the transparency of that lie is apparent to all. Perhaps Mayor Righeimer’s campaign slogan should be “Soft on Crime”, but I’m sure it will be more like “I’m Rude as Hell and Don’t Give a #*@% About Costa Mesa”.

2/26/2014 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Overall speciality officers:

2013: 62
Now: 19

Those positions Squad 51 mentioned - positions as detectives and in narcotics, gangs, vice, canine, airborne, etc. - all gone.

Why is the Mayor soft on crime?

2/26/2014 10:00:00 PM  
Blogger Gericault said...

"Righeimer alleges a whisper campaign"....Seriously?
This from the Mayor who has done everything to quash public comments?
These aren't whispers.
He is just hard of hearing...
I'm hoping he'll hear the voters loud and clear come November.

2/27/2014 08:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

In my case, it's not a "whisper campaign," it's a "Sing it out loudly" campaign. However, I'm contemplating turning it from that to a "ROAR" campaign. Has anyone noticed that Righeimer's first name is "Jimmy", just like one-term president Carter's? He'd make a really fine one-term councilman, I warrant.

2/27/2014 03:57:00 PM  

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