Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Breaking News! - Chief Tom Gazsi Weighs Anchor...

In a blockbuster announcement, today we learned that Chief Tom Gazsi is leaving the Costa Mesa Police Department and will move on to a recently-created position as Deputy Chief of Operations with the Los Angeles Port Police, which is charged with the safety and security of the Port of Los Angeles He will report through Assistant Chief Mike Hillmann, a law enforcement leader of international acclaim, to  Chief Ronald Boyd, who currently acts as Interim Executive Director of the Port of Los Angeles.  To see what kind of an operation Gazsi's moving to you can watch a short video of the recent dedication of the new Los Angeles Port Police Headquarters HERE.  Another link, HERE, will give you a little better idea of the operations at the Port of Los Angeles with which Gazsi will be dealing.


The Port of Los Angeles is the largest port in the Western Hemisphere, the 16th largest container port in the world, and, based on the most recent data available, handles more than 2,100 vessel arrivals each year.  More than 165 million tons of cargo, nearly 8 million containers and over 430,000 passengers passed through the port last year.  The value of the cargo last year was  more than $285 billion and the annual revenue of the port was just over $397 million.


Chief Gazsi, a Costa Mesa resident who has spent more than three dozen years in law enforcement in

both Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, expressed strong mixed feelings about leaving the men and women of the CMPD.  During his three-year tenure as the Chief of the Costa Mesa Police Department Gazsi continued the tradition established by other outstanding Costa Mesa chiefs like Roger Neth and Dave Snowden, shown here, and has led the department to significant accomplishments while dealing with political and economic circumstances that hobbled their efforts.  Due to retirements - both scheduled and unanticipated - plus departures for other jurisdictions, Gazsi managed a complete replacement of the command staff.  During the past two years the CMPD has hired more officers than at any similar time in its 60 year history.  He was forced to oversee the dismantling of the A.B.L.E. helicopter program - the model for all municipal airborne law enforcement programs in the country.  On his watch the CMPD saw many of its officers recognized for significant DUI arrests, although that performance has recently diminished due to staffing constraints.  The list goes on and on.

He expressed to me great affection for the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department and his admiration for their professionalism, skill, dedication and tenacity.  The opportunity to lead those men and women, particularly in such stressful and tumultuous times, has been the high point of his law enforcement career.

According to Gazsi, he wasn't looking for a job, but was sought out and selected for this position from a field of 60 candidates from around the country.  When he was contacted about the chance to create a new position with such regional and national security ramifications it was too great  a professional opportunity to pass up.  He cited the opportunity to work with highly-respected law enforcement leaders in a dynamic environment in a century-old, revered law enforcement organization as part of the reason he considered this position.  In this new position he will be responsible for more than 220 men and women, including 125 sworn officers, 15 patrol boats, plus dive operations to fulfill the department's mission to maintain the free flow of commerce and produce a safe, secure environment that promotes uninterrupted Port operations.


 Gazsi will begin his new job on December 8th.  He has been working with CEO Tom Hatch to develop a plan for interim leadership for the CMPD before he departs.  The future of the leadership of the Costa Mesa Police Department is now in the hands of Hatch and the City Council.  While Hatch is responsible for the Costa Mesa Police Department and the person who heads it up, he works for the City Council.


Here's my take on this situation.  I, personally, don't think Tom Gazsi would have considered making any change, including this one, if the environment at City Hall was better.  Jim Righeimer, with his dictatorial style, has created such a toxic work environment, particularly for the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department, that it is extremely difficult to recruit for any of the more than fifty openings, including the twenty-five open positions in the CMPD.  You can lay the departure of more than four dozen officers - including Gazsi - representing hundreds of years of experience, directly at Righeimer's feet.  Gazsi's departure is a giant exclamation point on this entire situation and it's importance and impact simply cannot be overstated.  I've written about it in the recent past, HERE, and Katrina Foley addressed it, too, HERE.

More than three years ago then-interim Police Chief Steve Staveley - a man with more than four decades of law enforcement leadership under his belt at the time who had been asked to lead the CMPD - twice - resigned, leaving behind a long, long letter describing his reasons.  You can read the entire letter HERE.  Perhaps the most telling segment is this one:
"Over the years, I have had city councils I thought were smart and thoughtful and ones who were less skilled. In every case, I know they were trying to do the right thing - I did not always agree, but clearly they were trying hard to improve the communities we all served.  I have never, however, seen a council such as this one. They lack skill, training, education, knowledge, they fail to study (or at least learn).  The majority either lies or are so lacking in the necessary skills that they actually believe the junk they say.  They act as if they are owners of the business that is the municipal government of the City of Costa Mesa, but they are not, they are merely trustees of these public assets both human and physical and they fail in that role completely.  They are, in my opinion, incompetent, unskilled and unethical."


Do I wish Gazsi was staying?  Of course! He is a man of faith, great character and integrity with three decades of experience and outstanding leadership and interpersonal skills.  Do I understand why he's leaving?  Yep!  Am I worried about how the men and women of the CMPD will react to his departure?  You bet!  I hope they will understand that this professional opportunity represents a chance for him to use his considerable skills in an arena with broad regional and national scope and impact.  I also hope they realize how hard he has tried to be a buffer between them and the hostility toward them by some elected leaders.  I hope they realize how he has tried to hold the department together with one hand while fending off the hostility and ignorant micromanaging with the other.  And, I hope they will realize how proud he is of them.


We want to thank the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department for their professionalism and devotion to our community.  We hope they will continue to serve this community with distinction and realize that, even though some of our elected leaders treat them with disdain, the residents of this community value and appreciate their dedication and skills.  We do understand the circumstances they face each day as they try to keep us safe although their numbers have dwindled.

While we are deeply saddened to see him go, we thank Chief Tom Gazsi for his service to our community and wish him well in this new endeavor.  This seems to be a good move for him, professionally, and for his family in the future.  While his strength of character and leadership will be sorely missed by the CMPD and the City of Costa Mesa, I have no doubt that the region and the country will be safer because of his leadership in that new job.  We thank Chief Gazsi for his devotion to this city, for his steady hand on the helm of the CMPD at a time when it certainly was needed and wish him all the best in this new assignment.  He will be missed. 

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Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

He will be missed in ways we can't even imagine. I really think he was waiting to see how the elections turned out before he made such a decision. Now I think this city is in real trouble. How many officers will go with him? Of course I wish him the best. He was so reachable and right there to reach out to everyone. This is a huge loss. And I blame Righeimer.

11/25/2014 04:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Skeptical in Costa Mesa said...


11/25/2014 04:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Do you suppose they will bring in Mensinger's good buddy from the DA's office?

11/25/2014 05:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike Scheafer said...

Huge loss to CM. Best of luck Chief. Thank you for the service to our community.

Thanks for your friendship.

11/25/2014 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger valan2 said...

While I'm happy for Chief Gazsi, I am sad for Costa Mesa's loss. The Chief's professionalism, expertise and compassion will be sorely missed. I hope The City can find someone of even nearly his caliber to fill the spot.

Thank you, Tom Gazsi, for your contribution to Costa Mesa and for your support and friendship.

11/25/2014 06:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Eleanor Egan said...

I'm so grateful for the 3 years Chief Gaszi gave this city, and so sad to lose him.

Of course, he'll do a wonderful job in his new position, and I wish him all the best.

11/25/2014 07:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Papa Smurf said...

I am at a loss for words.

11/25/2014 07:34:00 PM  
Anonymous JanetF said...

Geoff, I agree with everything you've said and I'm just sick about this. Happy for him and his new opportunities, but CM losing him will be a huge loss to bear.

11/25/2014 07:39:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

It is a very sad day for our city.
Chief Gazsi is an honorable, honest leader who stood up to the intense pressure of leading our CMPD
through some very dark times that continue.
He will be missed.
How many great police chiefs have left under Righeimer's regime?
How many more will leave?

11/25/2014 08:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Robin Leffler said...

Thanksgiving thoughts: enormous thanks and gratitude to the Chief for suffering fools and holding things together for as long as he did. I heard it was just a matter of time before they canned him for some made up bullshit, but actually for out maneuvering them.

Enormous thanks and gratitude to every sworn officer, PD employee and every general employee in a law enforcement position for hanging in to keep us safe and to have a functional as possible department. I think you all have worked miracles to keep us as safe as we have been.

11/25/2014 10:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Steve Smith said...

While I am sorry to see Chief Gaszi leave, Costa Mesa is going to be just fine. I had the pleasure of working closely with interim chief (Capt.) Sharpnack during my time on the city's homeless task force. He is intelligent, professional, and respected. Plus, his many years serving the city will greatly shorten his learning curve. IMO, he would make an excellent chief.

11/26/2014 07:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Robin, it would not surprise me in the slightest that the councilmen would contrive "untruths" to do someone in that they needd out.

I really believe they want to bring in Craig Hunter, Mensinger's buddy. Just watch.

11/26/2014 07:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

The battle for the future of Costa Mesa continues.

Picture France under German occupation and see the similarities.

Outsiders from Fountain Valley and Newport Beach have successfully invaded and taken over, and have already been draining the resources of Costa Mesa for their own gain.

Many local extremists have joined them, and sold out their city for money and other things.

11/26/2014 07:46:00 AM  
Anonymous CM Resident said...

This is big loss for Costa mesa, Tom Gazsi is a great chief and a truly good man. This opportunity is an amazing one, and anyone would be crazy not to leap at it - with or without the very significant financial benefits. LA Port Police Dept. is a unique one, with incredible assets for a relatively small force, due to the nature of their work.

Congratulations to both Tom and Capt. Sharpnack. CMPD remains in good hands.

11/26/2014 08:13:00 AM  
Anonymous It has to be said...


11/26/2014 09:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Steve Smith said...

Correction: I inadvertently spelled the chief's name incorrectly. Should be Gazsi.

11/26/2014 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger zennymoon said...

The strength and courage it has taken to remain professional, over these past three years, is phenomenal. Chief Gazsi has been the rock which allowed the pd to continue to function, even under continual minimum staffing conditions. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude for all he and his dept. persevered over these past years with Riggy. He deserves the best and sadly we don't have that to offer here in Costa Mesa...LA Port are getting a wonderful addition to their staff..Chief you will be missed.

11/26/2014 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger Ocpublicsquare said...

Chief Gazsi has been the glue keeping the pd together and has given us an extraordinary level of service in spite of the downsized much overworked staff. We have been blessed for the last three years with the Chief's excellent leadership and he will be missed. I have faith that the example from the Chief will sustain our CMPD through the transition. I hope and pray that a new chief carries the traditions and professionalism and is not a chief brought in through the political network. We need another very strong chief who will fight for what's best for the safety of Costa Mesa residents based on police science and the very best practices. We don't need a chief who will bend to the whims of a majority with a political ax to grind against the very ones charged with keeping the peace. We the residents must demand City Manager Hatch (who makes the final decision) hires the very best chief for the residents' safety and good of our city.

11/28/2014 11:11:00 AM  
Anonymous It has to be said...

Costa Mesa no longer has a "City Manager" that listens to, and represents the residents. From the Costa Mesa website, we have a CEO (although Mayor Riggy insists he never said: the "city" should be run like a "business"). Make no mistake, the CEO works for the council majority:

As the Chief Administrative Officer of the City, the Chief Executive Officer (Tom Hatch, right) is responsible for the coordination and direction of all activities of the City within the framework of policies established by the City Council.

11/29/2014 01:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Steve Staveley said...

Ms Leece is exactly right regarding Tom and the good work he has done.

11/30/2014 07:05:00 AM  

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