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Huntington Beach police managers call for a new chief

Huntington Beach police managers call for a new chief
Huntington Beach Police Chief Robert Handy came under fire again Wednesday as the local Police Management Assn., which represents captains and lieutenants, called for an immediate change at the helm. Rank-and-file officers lodged a no-confidence vote against Handy in August. (File Photo)

The union representing the Huntington Beach Police Department’s captains and lieutenants called for the ouster of Chief Robert Handy on Wednesday, a sentiment that echoes the no-confidence vote the department’s rank-and-file officers lodged against Handy this summer.

In calling its announcement “unprecedented,” the Huntington Beach Police Management Assn. said an “overwhelming majority have voted to support an immediate change in the office of the chief of police for the city of Huntington Beach.”

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“As police managers, we have never before offered an opinion on such matters,” the association said in a statement. “In these challenging times, we are committed to protecting the city we are sworn and entrusted with serving. We must ensure the trust, credibility, management and betterment of the department for all.”

The association called the relationship between Handy and most department employees “beyond repair.”

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“We believe the city of Huntington Beach should not overlook the problems of morale, frustration, dissension and a lack of integrity between department employees and Chief Handy,” the group said.

Handy, who has been chief since 2013, did not respond to a request for comment.

He has faced months of tension over his decisions, such as adding body cameras.

The Huntington Beach Police Officers Assn. — the union for rank-and-file officers — took a no-confidence vote against Handy in August. It has argued that the cameras are costly, place an unnecessary burden on limited police resources and extend the time needed to complete reports.

The officers also have cited low morale, out-of-date technology and recruitment problems.

Handy has been a frequent topic of discussion at recent City Council meetings. For several weeks, residents, officers and others have both decried and praised him.

He has had wide support on the council.

Councilwoman Lyn Semeta said Wednesday’s announcement from the management association doesn’t change her support for Handy, whom she called a very strong leader and “man of integrity.”

She noted the outpouring of support he received during Monday’s council meeting from business leaders, downtown residents, the Chamber of Commerce and nonprofits.

“Many people came out with a strong public display of support telling us how he has improved things,” Semeta said.

Councilman Billy O’Connell declined to comment Wednesday. The five other council members did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

“I’m committed to this community and I’m committed to the men and women of this Police Department,” Handy said in August after the officers’ no-confidence vote. “There was a perfect storm of issues that led to this, but we’re going to get through it and learn from it.”

The unions’ stated lack of faith in Handy comes as they negotiate new labor contracts.

The officers’ contract expired in September; the management association’s expires Dec. 31.

Last year, the Police Officers Assn. sued the city over an ordinance seeking to bring more transparency to the negotiations. The union argued the ordinance was impeding the officers’ ability to negotiate a new contract.

The legal case is ongoing.

Staff writer Hannah Fry contributed to this report.

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