City releases checkpoint audio

Costa Mesa has released the audio tapes from police at a Sept. 16 DUI checkpoint where Planning Commissioner Jim Righeimer confronted police about the timing and location of their stop.

The city attorney’s office released three digital audio files, with the longest one, at 1 minute and 16 seconds, providing the clearest audio of what happened that evening. The checkpoint started at 6 p.m. on southbound Harbor Boulevard south of Gisler Avenue, not far from a San Diego (405) Freeway off ramp. Righeimer approached police about 6:30 p.m. after sitting in traffic for nearly half an hour, he said.

On the tape, Righeimer can be heard telling police the checkpoint is “not a good idea.”

An unidentified officer replies, “OK.”

“OK?” Righeimer replies. “Who do I have to talk to? [Police Chief Chris] Shawkey? Who? This is unbelievable. I cannot believe it. I mean, how come at this time of the day during rush hour traffic?”

“We’re trying to educate the public,” the officer can be heard saying.

Police consider DUI checkpoints educational tools on the dangers of drinking and driving, and saturation patrols, where more officers are on the streets, as enforcement tools.

“This is not education, this is blocking traffic all the way back now,” Righeimer said in the recording.

The officer who ran the checkpoint, Sgt. David Makiyama, can be heard entering the conversation and asking who Righeimer is.

Righeimer introduces himself as a planning commissioner and demands they have a meeting about the checkpoint the next day. After they talk about scheduling, Righeimer tells Makiyama to give him his card and continues to complain.

“This is not going to happen anymore,” Righeimer said. “This is ridiculous, closing down the traffic right at rush hour coming home. Friday nights, Saturday nights is understandable this is outrageous. Not your fault, you’re doing your job I understand.”

Righeimer can be heard thanking Makiyama for the card and then apparently walks off.

At the Sept. 21 City Council meeting, Costa Mesa Police Assn. President Allen Rieckhof publicly admonished Righeimer for the incident. He accused Righeimer of trying to use his position in the city to shut down what they consider a minor traffic nuisance for the sake of public education and safety.

Righeimer argues police are playing politics and are trying to smear him because reining in police pay and pensions is a major part of his platform for his City Council run. The city attorney’s office is investigating the Sept. 16 incident.