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Mailbag: Police and politics in Costa Mesa

November 19, 2010

The recent murder of Riverside Police Officer Ryan Bonaminio brings into sharp focus the dangers law enforcement officers deal with each and every day on the job as they protect and serve our communities. I won't begin to try to make sense of Officer Bonaminio's death here — I'm not sure it's possible. He survived military tours in the Middle East only to return home to be lured into a trap by a career criminal and murdered with his own weapon.

When I read of such a loss, to the community of which he was a part and to his friends and family, I find anger swelling inside me as I think of the way the entire Costa Mesa Police Department was vilified by some members of this community during the recent political campaign. Those flames were fanned by then-candidate Jim Righeimer, as he used what he perceived to be excessive compensation for public employees, and the CMPD in particular, as his singular campaign plank — his springboard into a City Council seat.

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While I am not a police officer, nor have I ever been one, my best friend was a member of the Los Angeles Police Department for 31 years and, through him, I know many, many officers. Former LAPD chief Daryl Gates was a friend. I've known Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca since high school and am proud to be friends with former Costa Mesa Police Chief Dave Snowden. During the recent campaign I became acquainted with many Costa Mesa police officers. Through all those associations and many more I may have a slightly more intense, personal appreciation than most for the sacrifices the men and women in law enforcement make to protect us all.

During the recent rancorous City Council campaign, the main focus was Righeimer vs. the Police, with vicious tactics used by both sides as they maneuvered for political advantage. Righeimer, using his pals at the O.C. GOP as beaters in the hunt, made it clear that his intent was to go after the compensation packages of our municipal employees and make Costa Mesa a laboratory for statewide pension reform.

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