Costa Mesa wants to cut police force by 8
COSTA MESA — Twelve sworn police officer positions and one non-sworn position face elimination under a proposed Police Department restructuring plan released Friday.
City Chief Executive Tom Hatch’s proposal to save an estimated $1.35 million a year would reduce the number of active-duty police officers from 139 to 131.
The plan would add 10 sworn reserve positions, two K-9 units to patrol, two park rangers, a crime scene specialist and four support jobs, as well as transfer four helicopter pilots to ground-based duties, city spokesman Bill Lobdell said in a news release.
The plan also proposes that Costa Mesa share SWAT team duties with neighboring communities, outsource the city jail and fold the 911 center into the Police Department.
Five of the full-time positions would be funded by an existing $1.8 million federal grant for the next three years, the release said.
However, in a letter to Hatch, interim Police Chief Steve Staveley said that significant cuts to the force would hinder its ability to continue to do community policing, where officers solve problems at their roots instead of merely responding to calls.
“Let me be very clear … I am a very strong advocate and longtime practitioner of what is now called community-oriented or -based policing,” Staveley wrote. “Anytime an agency as busy as the Costa Mesa Police Department falls below a certain level of staffing you must expect that it will develop into a strictly law enforcement agency.”
Members of the Costa Mesa Police Officers Assn. raised concerns about the proposals.
“There was disbelief that no amount of logic, statistical data, or law enforcement experience is going to change the tragic course this city is on,” Jason Chamness, association president, said when asked to gauge the mood after the proposal was released to department personnel on Wednesday.
He also raised concerns about reducing staffing levels compared with where they were only a few years ago.
“There were 164 sworn police officers in 2009-2010 and a steady decrease in crime,” he said. “Now the CEO is recommending a 21% decrease in officers. Even the consulting firm that the city hired and the chief recommended more officers.”
The City Council plans to review the proposed plan in Tuesday’s budget meeting. The proposed changes could take place as soon Oct. 1, Lobdell said in a phone call.