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Huntington Beach is still safe and made the right call extending chief's contract

Huntington Beach is still safe and made the right call extending chief's contract
Huntington Beach Police Chief Rob Handy (File photo)

Two weeks ago, I and the overwhelming majority of the City Council voted 6 to 1 to support a five-year contract for Huntington Beach Police Chief Rob Handy. It was the right move for the city and the community.

Unfortunately, rather than embracing this positive news, our colleague, Billy O'Connell, has doubled-down publicly, promoting a preposterous image of Surf City as a crime-riddled den of violence and danger ("Commentary: It's time to stop playing politics and declare war on crime in Huntington Beach," March 5).

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Nothing could be further from the truth. The notion that Huntington Beach is on the brink of anarchistic ruin is as ridiculous as it is false.

While property crime declined in 2017, violent crime did increase. And one violent crime is too many.

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But to take this fact out of local, regional and national context is intellectually dishonest — and O'Connell knows it.

Here's reality: Huntington Beach is among the safest large cities in America. Our violent crime rate is one-third the average U.S. city our size. In fact, in two of the past 10 years, we were the only large city in the entire country without a murder.

Recent FBI statistics show that the entire Southern California region is experiencing an uptick in violent crime, in part due to changes in how violent crimes are classified and due to changes in laws, such as Propositions 47 and 57, which have allowed too many violent criminals to avoid incarceration. My upcoming town hall will address this dynamic.

An outside consultant, Robert Lehner, recently conducted an assessment of the crime in Huntington Beach and issued a report stating, "Residents of most cities would envy the remarkably low crime experience of Huntington Beach over the past decade. … The overall risk to the community of victimization in Huntington Beach, as well as the cost of that victimization, was (and remains) much lower than most other cities."

The five-year contract is a vote of confidence, a meaningful sign of the support Chief Handy enjoys for his community-focused leadership. We should move forward as a unified community. The contract extension shall serve as a unifying instrument: A unifier that delivers incentive to all stakeholders in a path forward toward reconciliation.

The city and the chief have expressed complete commitment to the continued evolution of HBPD into a forward-thinking model of 21st century community policing.

We must put the safety and welfare of our citizens above all else; continued attacks of city leadership for political gain is irresponsible and unprofessional.

So my message to O'Connell is simple: Be a part of the solution to work together to enhance our already wonderful and safe community.

MIKE POSEY is the mayor of Huntington Beach.

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