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Police restructuring plans to be presented

Interim chief says staffing levels would be addressed in some form, but could not elaborate.

June 07, 2011|By Lauren Williams, lauren.williams@latimes.com

COSTA MESA — The city executive's still-developing plans to restructure the Costa Mesa Police Department will be presented to police officers Wednesday, interim Police Chief Steve Staveley said.

Staveley said police staffing levels would be addressed in some form, but he could not elaborate.

City Chief Executive Tom Hatch declined to comment on aspects of the proposal that have to do with police staffing levels.

However, a report made by an independent firm hired by the city to study the department, Management Partners Inc., makes recommendations about "providing the same level of customer service with a reduced workforce."

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Management Partners also recommended improving officer recruitment and retention.

The plan takes into account assessments made by Staveley on how the department could be run more efficiently and at a lower cost, Hatch said.

Management Partners recommended that Costa Mesa share SWAT team services with neighboring cities.

"Because SWAT teams are expensive to create and maintain, while the incidents they respond to are infrequent and unscheduled, finding a balance between maintaining officer productivity and SWAT capacity is a challenge," according to the report.

Sharing SWAT services would save Costa Mesa about $300,000 annually, the report estimated.

Reductions in animal control were also suggested.

Newport-Mesa Unified School District Trustee Katrina Foley said cuts to the department would likely harm the community.

"I can't imagine we're going to see a drop in crime," Foley said. "If you don't have cops on the streets, criminals will take advantage of that situation."

A source with knowledge of the situation said the proposed reductions may eliminate police officer positions at Estancia and Costa Mesa high schools, but that could not be independently confirmed Tuesday.

Foley said that the presence of the two sworn officers assigned has resulted in "dramatic reduction" in crime.

"I'm just extremely concerned my quality of life, my family's quality of life, is going to be degraded," Foley said.

After garnering input from police, Hatch said he will present the City Council with the plan at the June 14 budget study session.

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