Newport Beach Police Chief Joe Cartwright to focus on community connection, employee wellness

Joe Cartwright will be the 11th police chief in the Newport Beach Police Department's history.
(Courtesy of the city of Newport Beach)

While the announcement of his appointment as the new chief of police for the Newport Beach Police Department was made only a few days ago, Joe Cartwright isn’t resting on his laurels.

Cartwright will be the 11th chief in the department’s history, succeeding former Chief Jon Lewis, who retired last December after a lifelong career in Newport Beach. Cartwright was, until Monday, serving as the department’s interim chief while the city searched for its newest top cop before deciding to appoint from within its own ranks. He will officially step into his new role in April and oversee a department of over 200 employees in five divisions and a number of other specialized units.

“I’m extremely honored to have this opportunity, but I also understand that this department and this community has never been about one person, and that’s my approach to everything,” Cartwright said. “We have an incredible team of officers, professional staff and volunteers. They’re all dedicated people who want to serve Newport Beach and put the community’s needs above their own.”

Cartwright, who began his career in law enforcement with the Los Angeles Police Department in 1999, has served on the Newport Beach force since 2002.

His goals as chief, he said, align with a number of initiatives that have already started, and he hopes to continue expanding on them during his tenure. He said he wanted to continue increasing community engagement and pointed to the mobile cafes that the department held at local coffee shops throughout last year.

“The people in Newport Beach are our eyes and ears out there,” he noted. “The more that we can educate them and how they can help, the better. Crime prevention is a team sport. People know their neighborhoods, their businesses well. If they see something is suspicious, invariably it’s always, ‘I don’t want to bother you guys,’ but that’s why we’re here. We want you to bother us.

“We’d rather stop a crime from occurring than report on it after the fact.”

SBPD officials offered a rundown of what happened the night of Jan. 16, when police shot and killed an armed man outside a residence on Old Ranch Road. One family member, however, questions their interpretation.

Cartwright said he also hopes to increase communication between the city and police in addition to paying close attention to officer wellness, both physically and mentally, to place a greater emphasis on the “human element” of police work.

Addressing crime in the city is an ongoing priority for the department. Cartwright said he knows and hears the concerns about residential burglaries.

“That goes back to doing the mobile cafes and social media and neighborhood watch ... because we’re trying to educate people to the tactics that the [South American theft] groups are using so they can harden the target at their home so they’re not victimized,” Cartwright said, adding that the department provides free home security inspections if people want to check their residences.

Dealing with the ongoing opioid crisis, particularly fentanyl, is another priority for the new chief. He said the department is working on training people how to use Narcan, a nasal spray that can reduce or reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. He said the employment of Narcan as a life-saving tool is becoming as typical as “CPR or the Heimlich maneuver.”

“It’s something people need to be able to perform in an emergency. We’re planning to get that out to as many people as possible so we can save lives,” Cartwright said. “We want to get to the point where all city employees that are in contact with the public have access to it. We want to get to the point … that people have some on standby like an EpiPen because I want to be realistic that saving the lives of people is the first thing we’ve got to do. Getting the pills off the street is going to be a huge undertaking.”

Cartwright said that when he arrived in 2002, he was amazed by the community support and the quality of the staff. Though he acknowledges the department, like others in the region, faces issues with retention and recruitment, his officers are “among the smartest, highly educated people I’ve ever been around.”

“For me, my greatest success has been engaging them and their brains. My goal is not to be the one who has the ideas and takes the credit, but to really work with my people and get the very best out of them. There’s always somebody that has a really great idea, and I want to engage them as well and use their brain power to help propel us into the future,” he said. “It’s not about me, but it’s about the community. But I enjoy it, I wake up every day proud of what I do and the people I work with.

“I couldn’t be more excited. I didn’t expect this opportunity to come up when it did, but I was ready for it. I’m happy to be here. I really am.”

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