Friday, July 15, 2016

A Timely, Personal, Essay From Chief Steve Staveley

Today my friend, Steve Staveley, published a very personal essay on Facebook that I thought should be shared beyond those borders.

As most know, Chief Staveley was the interim Police Chief for the City of Costa Mesa twice within the past several years as city officials went through the process of searching for and selecting a permanent chief.  He served my community with great professionalism and skill both times.
Chief Staveley has more than four decades of law enforcement experience under his belt and is widely recognized as a true law enforcement leader.  He has retired, but remains a cop to the core.  Considering all the recent unpleasantness involving law enforcement across the country I thought I should share his observations with you.  Here is his essay:

I was not born a policeman.     I became one in 1967 - and yes policeman was the title.    Like all police officers, I learned in the academy, in classes after graduation but mostly from colleagues, mentors, leaders and experienced police officers like Gene Shields, Dave DeSoucy, Neil Wyman, Dale Wilson and so many others.    I learned what not to do and what to do to be good.   I watched those who I would later see as utter failures, rude, biased, unprofessional.   I learned from those like Bill Hamm who always tried to do the work the right way, but have fun doing it.   I had to learn some of it over a couple of times because it just did not take the first few.    I learned from peers, subordinates and supervisors.   People like Dorothy Nelson, Don Martin, Ken Baguley, Bob Reber, Billy Cox, Pat Black,   and many more.   I found in my first department and in my other agencies that I could learn as much by those I supervised as those that I worked for.    Vic Pobis and I worked together for several shifts and I was amazed how much I picked up from him.

I thought I was pretty good when I got to about 3 years of service only to learn by 7 or 8 years on the job that I had been a babe in the woods, not very good at all.     Somewhere between 5 and 7 years most police officers become what leaders would consider skilled.    That is they can handle any call without having to seek help of sergeants but they know and will ask when they need help and guidance - its experience, education and a consistent positive culture of ethical conduct to guide them that makes the difference.    Its one of the reasons great supervisors, Internal Affairs, and thoughtful discipline is so important in police agencies.  

Somewhere in that 5 to 7 year time frame, cops often begin to see the true role of the police.    They understand and can accept the idea that their profession is not really law enforcement (as everyone including the cops say ), but the police service with more effort needed in community building and community outreach to all the members of the community.   They begin to understand the concept of Justice in society and that some folks should not get arrested (where the officer has the legal authority which is often the case ) and others should be held before the courts.    A kid who makes a stupid mistake might be diverted to an in house program for redirection and a harden gang member sent straight to the next level because of his history of failure to follow societies and the communities rules.    I third kid with the same history and offense might well be best served and Justice best serviced by taking him home and letting mom and dad dispense the lesson.   That may not be as possible today as it was in the 60s and 70's and if so, that may well be a loss to the learning process.

Today, long retired, I still carry on my keys a handcuff key first put on my key ring  in 1967.    My badge, uniforms, Sam Browne are all put away.    I can still carry a gun, and I do sometimes.    It was something I always did when working full time and seldom do now.   What is funny is I still consider myself a policeman.    True, at my age, I don't possess the physical skills necessary to be a street cop.    I do still think of myself as one however, and recognize that, like many of my fellow retired cops, I know how to do community outreach, to build the quality of life in a community, to reach out to people and treat them with respect and dignity while still doing the job.    Mike Mitchell who is retired and I had this kind of conversation recently.    Like Mike,  I know how to work toward Justice in our society and what ethical police work looks and feels like.       It is not surprising then when neighbors say to me, as they did last week, that they are sorry about the Dallas cops.      They know that the only thing that keeps society moving forward ultimately is  good police work.   They know, in their heart of hearts that police work done correctly is about defending the community, growing the community, insuring Justice is done in our society for all its members.   They know too, although I have never said it to anyone, I still see myself as a policeman.   

I was not born a policeman, but when I die, I surly shall still be one, as will many of us.   Thus we are all hurt when a cop does not do the job correctly and equally hurt when one is harmed trying to do the job the right way.   But its not up to us old retired guys its up to those still doing the job.   Do it right ladies and gentlemen, do it with vigor, do it ethically and without bias and if you have a bias, whatever it might be, keep it out of your work and to yourself.   No cop ever got paid to show a bias, only to be fair, straightforward, and engaged in the community for the betterment of that community, society and the profession.       Having someone say " your a good police officer" is just about the highest praise anyone in any profession could possibly receive.     Ultimately its not medals and awards that police officers seek, its knowing they are appreciated for doing a difficult and at times, impossible job.   Appreciated by their leaders sure, but most importantly by the community they are engaged in building.



Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Sure do wish he were still here. He had the balls to stand up to the dim bulbs in charge.

7/15/2016 03:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Ken Nyquist said...

Interesting read. I spend about 2 weeks a month at our local court up here in Joshua Tree, sitting in the supervising judges (there are only 3 judges here)court watching the proceedings. I have learned one thing for sure. No matter how hard the deputies work to keep us safe, the jails and courts are so overcrowded that it is getting more difficult to have actual Justice. This court covers an area that extends all the way to Needles, 140 miles away. Imagine your local court being 140 miles away. It is a very difficult environment here and not for the faint of heart.
I spend a lot of time involved with the San Bernardino County Sheriff Deputies that run our local jail, court and patrol for a vast area, and they do the best they can, but know that the law has made it easier for them to cite and release rather than transport and take the time to book and release or bail. Sad situation in some cases and just fine in others, but the message is that we are falling behind the criminal element.
As a kid I can remember when the first helicopter came to Newport and Costa Mesa. My recollection was it was the summer of 1968. I was such a long hair punk and anti cop. We called the helicopter the Whirly Pig. It was not until I went into the Army a few years later that I realized why we need a protective force around us. I have learned a lot since then and we would be in chaos in Joshua Tree and Yucca Valley if it were not for our deputies here.
I felt safe in Costa Mesa while Chief Staveley was running things and appreciate his service to us all..

7/15/2016 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

Chief Staveley exemplifies the good, community oriented officers
and staff we have in our CMPD.
His excellent leadership contributed to the CMPD becoming one of the
best police departments in the country.
Sadly the current CCM set out to dismantle our CMPD as soon as they
came into power begining with the destruction of the ABLE helicopter program
that contributed over $1Million a year in revenue to our city.
It also provided minimal noise air support for our officers in tracking criminals.
Chief Staveley called them out on it and resigned, no longer able to work under
immoral and incompetant council guys.
Thank you, Chief Staveley. We were fortunate to have you lead our CMPD.

7/15/2016 07:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

Whenever I pass one of our cops, whether driving, biking, or walking, I always give them a "V" for victory. Even when Hizzonner caused Sgt. Stafford to come over and interview me in my house, Costa Mesa cops have ALWAYS, without fail, been friendly and professional to me. There is no real reason why they need to act this way, yet they always do. I'm very glad we've got people like them on the street in our town.

7/18/2016 08:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Servedagreatcity2short said...

ABLE was a concept that worked, and the air support that was provided will never really be appreciated I guess by the average person, or city administrator. No, I'll tell you who really appreciated the ABLE program, me!

When I was sent to a multiple activation commercial burglary alarm, and absolutely no backup was available, I did what every other fellow officer would do. That is to respond to the call and handle it as tactically sound as possible. Yes, this goes the same for when you add the factor of darkness at 3am, and another factor such as a very large facility that is literally impossible to tell if there are any lookouts that I thought could do me harm if they existed.

But the time I really thanked God for that lovely orbiting sound, was after I walked down the walkway next to the side of the building in complete darkness - with a 8' wall to my right, and a two story building to my left, with no light, and a 75 yard walk to a dead end where a door existed. After arriving at the door, I hear crunching under my boots. I put my light on its lowest w my hand cupping extra light, in order not to give away my position. I then realize I'm looking at a broken window where entry was made, and I'm standing in the glass fragments that fell outside.

No moon was out to assist me as I retreated back the now seemingly longer 75 yards, as I have nowhere else to go for safety but out of that walkway. And once out, I found a dark area to observe the location from, as I have no problem saying that I had to spend about 20 seconds getting the "ebiejeebies" out of me so dispatch could understand my radio traffic. When I notified dispatch of the smashed window and confirmed entry, no backup was still available.

It was the 'whirly pig' that arrived under the ABLE program that was able to confirm I was not in mortal danger, as their FLIR technology gave me an all clear for hot vehicles and myself as the only 6'5" individual, yes, a professional officer, who was giving off body heat. The helicopter stayed on scene until a few more officers could get on scene to conduct a safer, and proper search with available resources.

And yes, I as well as other officers sometimes call the helicopter a 'whirly pig' but not out of malicious intent or disrespect, but out of humor. Yes, we, just like you like to laugh, and experience all sorts of emotions. We're highly trained professionals but we're still humans, and as one of the few officers at 6'5", I can definitely say YES..... Even officers can get the "ebiejeebies." And I'm taking poetic license to call that grouping of letters an actual word. Because not too many things rattle an officer more than finding out that they're NOT in control of their safety; even though it's the one factor drilled into each of us from the beginning of our training.

R.I.P. ABLE..... A huge thank you to those who worked on a truly "out of the box" concept to make an expensive tool work for the community (which includes the officers) in an economical and smart manner. Thanks Chief Snowden, Captain Brooks, and all others that made this unfortunately cancelled benefit and tool used by countless agencies a reality while it lasted!!!

12/13/2017 01:50:00 PM  

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