Commentary: Police go to ‘playbook’ to sway elections

Re. Commentary: Candidates’ policies are harmful to public safety: Retired Costa Mesa Police officer Clay Epperson resorts to fear and intimidation in his recent Daily Pilot article. Fear and intimidation are right out of the union playbook for swaying local elections, but here are the facts:

This year, our city will spend almost a half a million more on the Police Department budget than last year. In total the city spends $42 million a year our of $100 million on police.

Costa Mesa’s crime rate is at a historic low. Last year the City Council, CEO Tom Hatch and Chief Gazsi began the process of rebuilding our once-vaunted reserve program, a previously successful program that incubated a large majority of today’s police leadership.

With 131 sworn officers on our street, and 70 non-sworn officers, our crime rate is significantly lower than it was five years ago, when we were at an all-time high. Nearly every category of crime is down from 2006, including homicides, robberies and burglaries, which are all down by double digits!

So what has happened? Hatch and Gazsi have started to focus on the reasons for crime. Treat the disease, not just the symptoms. Focus our efforts at eradicating the problem motels which account for 80% of our police calls. Focus our efforts at DUI saturation patrols which catch more drunk drivers than isolated DUI checkpoints. Create a shared helicopter program with Huntington Beach and Newport Beach that provides more hours of helicopter service at less cost. Smarter policing is keeping our city safe.

Mr. Epperson does not get that. He and his friends have spent years banging the public safety drum at election time, claiming that unless we hire hundreds of police officers, we will not be safe. Understandably, Mr. Epperson wants to return to the old days, when fear and intimidation won elections and gave the police control of our city.

In 2010 I watched with horror as Mr. Epperson’s friends in the police union towed around a giant billboard attacking a City Council candidate. They said the same things in 2010 as they are saying in 2012. But why?

Costa Mesa Police officers are among the highest paid in Southern California. Their union law firm was just connected to a private investigator who falsely accused a Costa Mesa council member of DUI after following him to his house.

Mr. Epperson retired at 50. When he turns 80, our children and grandchildren will be paying him nearly $300,000 per year in retirement alone. Understandably, Mr. Epperson wants to protect this cash cow and keep a system in place where the City Council is bought and paid for by the police unions and their corrupt law firm. This is how local government has functioned for years.

HOWARD HULL has lived in Costa Mesa for 50 years.