Potentially 20 officers leaving Costa Mesa police force

COSTA MESA — As many as 20 officers, or more than 10% of the force, are in the process of leaving the Police Department as a widespread restructuring looms in the months ahead, an officers association leader confirmed Friday.

“It is my understanding that approximately 20 officers have applied to other departments and several have received conditional offers of employment from other agencies,” Costa Mesa Police Assn. President Jason Chamness said. “In speaking with some of these officers, a significant motivating factor is a fear of layoffs.”

He added, “The training, experience and noble qualities of our officers make them highly desirable employees.”

One officer was confirmed to have left the department this week for another department within Orange County, but his departure was attributed to improving his career, not to a decline in general morale, interim Police Chief Steve Staveley said.

Staveley confirmed that several officers were entering the background checks necessary in the application process to apply to other departments, but he would not give a concrete number, saying that he “can’t share that because it’s a moving target,” and that the officers may not get hired at other departments.

The Police Department has 144 officers.

“The rumors are out there that we’re going to downsize a little bit. They’re just doing what they feel is best for them,” Mayor Gary Monahan said. “I support that. Whenever I’ve had an employee find a job that they feel is better suited for them, I’m always behind them.”

City officials said there is a citywide hiring freeze in place, except for critical positions such like department heads. If the 20-some officers left, it would align with the department’s potential restructuring that city leaders are considering.

Elsewhere in Costa Mesa departments, five other city employees have left since February, including adminstrative services head Steve Mandoki and development services director Kim Brandt.

Brandt, who was with the city for 23 years, announced Friday that she is taking a new executive position in neighboring Newport Beach.