Costa Mesa Police Chief Rob Sharpnack announces retirement

Costa Mesa Police Chief Rob Sharpnack speaks last year during a dinner honoring police and firefighters.
(File Photo)

Rob Sharpnack, Costa Mesa’s police chief of four years, will retire by the end of the year, he said Friday.

His last day on the job will be Dec. 21.

“I am thankful for the opportunity to serve this community for the past 25 years and proud to have had the opportunity to lead the best Police Department in Orange County. I am appreciative of all the support I have received from the department and the community over the years and, in particular, since I announced my decision to retire,” Sharpnack said in a statement.

“I can’t say enough about our team’s hard work and dedication to exemplary service, and it has been an honor to serve my entire career alongside the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department.”

Sharpnack rose through the department ranks since he was first hired as a custody officer in the city jail in 1993, after playing professional baseball. After his baseball career ended, he went on police ride-alongs “to see what this great career was all about,” he said in a recruitment video from 2017.

“I saw firsthand the impacts that police officers make in lives every single day in communities,” Sharpnack said in the video. “I couldn’t think of anything else that would provide as much a sense of self-accomplishment.”

Rob Sharpnack is sworn in as Costa Mesa police chief in 2015 as his wife, Stephanie, and children Colin and Elyse watch.
(File Photo)

He was promoted from captain to chief in 2015, just as crime in Costa Mesa began to surge. Overall crime rates took a turn for the better in 2017 and have dropped since.

“Due to Chief Sharpnack’s development of a strong leadership team, I am confident that the Costa Mesa Police Department will remain one of the finest in Orange County,” Mayor Katrina Foley said in a statement Friday.

On his watch, she said, police added K-9 and bike patrol units.

“I thank him for his dedication to the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department and the greater Costa Mesa community. I wish Chief Sharpnack best wishes for his retirement and future,” Foley said.

When Sharpnack took the helm, the city was struggling to fill a couple of dozen vacancies on its police force. The chief tried to strengthen the department’s numbers.

He sent a scathing memo to the City Council in May over the proposed 2019-20 budget, which he said shortchanged the Police Department and imperiled public safety.

“This has been the worst budget process both my staff and I have ever witnessed,” he wrote. “While it is an honor and a privilege to serve the Costa Mesa community, we cannot do it effectively with inadequate funding and equipment.”

The letter highlighted a disagreement between the police and the city’s top brass. Sharpnack blamed the budget fight on then-acting City Manager Tamara Letourneau, who has since become city manager of Laguna Niguel, and Kelly Telford, the city’s finance director.

Sharpnack said the number of police officers on the roster was insufficient to handle demand. The dispatch center, he said, was “in crisis mode, with only 50% staffing.” The budget also did not include enough funding for overtime pay or necessary equipment, he said.

Council leadership tried to ease the strain, meeting with the chief and the board of the Costa Mesa Police Assn., but the council ultimately passed the proposed budget, increasing Police Department funding by 1%, from $49.2 million in 2018-19 to $49.7 million.

Sharpnack served as chief during a time marked by dynamic shifts on the City Council and some turnover in City Hall staffing, including a new city manager.

“Rob has dedicated more than 25 years to the organization and community and I wish him only the very best in his well-earned retirement,” City Manager Lori Ann Farrell Harrison, who was hired in May, said in a statement. “I hope this will give him the opportunity to spend more time with his family.”

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