Newport police chief walks the route

Police Chief Jay Johnson talks to local residents on the Fourth and learns about his new community first-hand.

July 05, 2010|By Mike Reicher,
  • Newport Beach's new Police Chief, Jay Johnson, addressed fellow officers on July 4th at the police command center in Newport on his second day as the new police chief.
Newport Beach's new Police Chief, Jay Johnson,… (Ani Yessayan, DAILY…)

When police officers blocked one young blonde from entering the Newport Beach Peninsula, they probably didn't expect the police chief to hear about it. They were, after all, just following orders.

But Newport Beach Police Chief Jay Johnson walked the streets of West Newport and talked with Independence Day partygoers. Lindsay Johnson (no relation), 28, was annoyed she had to take a new route from Huntington Beach, so she griped straight to the chief.

"It was kind of a pain," she said, cussing to make her point. But Johnson wasn't fazed. On his second day on the job, he was putting a friendly face on Newport's strong police presence.

Perhaps the most visible measure in the city's new push to tame Fourth of July activities was a barricade that prevented people from entering Balboa Boulevard at West Coast Highway. They had to disperse and walk to Newport Boulevard or Prospect Street, which killed many buzzes and warmed a few beers.


City officials took this and other measures to make West Newport a more "family-friendly" place for the Fourth of July.

"I don't want to be uncomfortable bringing my kids around here," said Johnson, who has three children under 10.

But some revelers complained about the display of force. A total of 246 peace officers patrolled the streets — 140 from Newport Beach Police Department, 60 from nearby agencies and others from the California Highway Patrol and the Orange County Sheriffs Department.

They walked, drove in marked and unmarked cars, and rode mountain bikes and ATVs. Officers stopped by parties before they started, talking to residents and explaining the rules and risks of partying.

"You're going to change the complexion of Newport Beach," said Marty Bright, 67, who has owned a home on 42nd Street since the 1970s. "We're appealing to young people with our restaurants and rentals, and young people like to party."

Bright was lounging on his patio, sipping a glass of red wine as Johnson and a captain spoke to some of his guests. He hung a massive American flag, spanning the width of a city street.

"They're very friendly," Bright said of the patrolling police, "but I'm not sure if it's really necessary."

Johnson said the police visibility was really not overbearing, as some might perceive.

"It could appear that way, but they don't understand the bigger picture," he said. "A lot of problems don't happen because of a strong police presence."

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles