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New chief a people person

May 22, 2003

Deepa Bharath

John Hensley said he will be the people's chief.

Named Costa Mesa's new police chief on Tuesday, Hensley, who now

heads the Cypress Police Department, said he wants to focus on

"quality of life" issues and hopes to delve deep into what gets on

the nerves of the community.

"Police officers generally think they know what the community's

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problems are," he said. "But they're only working on issues they

think are important to the community."

Hensley, who will begin as Costa Mesa's chief on June 16, said he

talks to people one-on-one.

"I'm the kind of chief who'll make house calls, do town hall

meeting and focus groups," he said. "I try to listen to the people.

They'll get a lot of face time with me."

Hensley said he will take time to study the policing issues in

Costa Mesa and will discuss his vision with his officers first before

making it public.

"I'd like them to hear it from me first instead of reading about

it in the paper," he said.

Hensley said he applied for the job because of the good reputation

the Costa Mesa Police Department has countywide and statewide.

"I wanted to be part of it," he said. "The morale is top-notch, as

well."

Hensley said he is "very excited" about his new job.

"I hope they are excited about having a new chief, too," he said.

It's definitely going to be a change for the department that Chief

David Snowden has made his home for the last 16 years, Hensley said.

"I can't be Dave," he said. "I have my own style. I'm not saying

it's better or worse. It's just different. It'll take some getting

used to. I'm hoping they'll give me the benefit of doubt."

Hensley said he strongly believes in an "open-door policy."

"It's something I learned during my nine years in the Army," he

said. "I always encourage people to come into my office. If they

don't want to do that for some reason, I go to their office. My

belief is that if you can't take on organizational issues with

people, it hurts the organization in the long run."

The new chief said he is also a strong proponent of "collaborative

efforts."

"It works for me," he said.

A key concept in his philosophy as Cypress' chief, he said, has

been "customer service."

"We work hard to make sure our response time is quick," Hensley

said. "We use computer technology to locate crime patterns, trends

and problems."

His biggest accomplishment in Cypress?

"Making community policing more than just a slogan," he says.

Hensley, who lives in El Segundo, said he is seriously considering

moving to Costa Mesa.

"I'm not the commuting type," he said with a laugh. "My wife and I

hope to get into the community and check out the real estate market

soon."

Hensley says he is fond of Cypress, but that he can't wait to

begin his new assignment in Costa Mesa.

"I'm really looking forward to it," he said. "This is a big day

for me and my family."

* DEEPA BHARATH covers public safety and courts. She may be

reached at (949) 574-4226 or by e-mail at deepa.bharath@latimes.com.

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