City Life: Grown-ups battle a childish war

September 27, 2010|By Steve Smith

Every so often there is someone you know or someone in the news who you just want to grab, shake and say, "What were you thinking?"

I am tempted to run over to Costa Mesa Planning Commissioner Jim Righeimer's house and do that. But I'm also tempted to run over to the central office of Allen Rieckhof, president of the Costa Mesa Police Officers Assn., and do that to him, too.

The fun started about 6:30 p.m. Sept. 16 when Righeimer, and plenty of other drivers, found themselves waiting a long time to get through a DUI checkpoint on Harbor Boulevard mounted by Costa Mesa police.


Anyone remotely familiar with the area knows that it is a place to avoid at that hour. In this case, rush hour turned into slow hour for thousands of drivers.

Righeimer decided he would question the police on the spot about why they had set up a checkpoint on a Thursday night — not exactly party time — why during rush hour and why on one of the busiest streets in the county.

So, he stopped his car, got out and did just that. Whether he was playing his planning commissioner's card is still being resolved as of this writing, but, regardless of that, confronting police officers at the time was not good judgment.

Neither was it good judgment on Rieckhof's part to be the first person to state that Righeimer's move was political, because there were mistakes on both sides.

Rieckhof stated at a City Council meeting that "… none of my members did anything wrong."

But if the Daily Pilot news report on the incident is accurate, four members most certainly did something wrong.

The initial Daily Pilot story included this passage: "Four police officers, each of whom asked not to be identified because they're not authorized to speak with the media, claimed Righeimer demanded, as a public official, that officers shut down the checkpoint."

Rieckhof is demanding an investigation into the incident. Fine, but let's make sure that investigation delves into the actions of those four officers who broke department rules.

For his part, Righeimer claims that Rieckhof's call for an investigation and the police comments thus far are payback for questioning the size of the police benefits package. Maybe it is and maybe it isn't.

The problem with that position is that he'll never get anyone to admit it.

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