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Report: Departing cops cite political tensions

The official memo distributed to council members comes amid the department's difficulties in hiring more sworn officers.

February 26, 2014|By Bradley Zint

Within the past four years, 25 members of the Costa Mesa police force have said they left the department because of the city's contentious political environment, according to a recent city report.

The official memo, distributed to the City Council on Friday, also stated that despite receiving thousands of applications within the past several months, only a few people were recruited for the police academy.

The document, prepared by assistant city CEO Tamara Letourneau, said of the 2,782 people who applied for about 25 open Costa Mesa police positions since May 2013, some 188 were interviewed, 104 were selected for background checks, and eight have enrolled in the academy. None have been hired as officers yet.

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The memo comes after a Daily Pilot investigation last year that reported the department's difficulties recruiting desirable candidates, attracting transfers and keeping officers from going to work elsewhere. The reasons, according to sources interviewed by the Pilot, included an "overheated" politicized environment and the ongoing debate about public-employee compensation.

"A number of these folks have left because of the contentious environment and a difficulty in predicting a future for their families and a career," Police Chief Tom Gazsi said in an interview this week. "They're seeking agencies where there's a breadth of assignment opportunities available to them, as well as development and advancement."

According to the memo, of the 43 department members who left Costa Mesa between 2011 and 2014, three went to Beverly Hills, three to Manhattan Beach, two to Anaheim, two to La Habra and two to Irvine. Other officers went to Westminster, Cypress, Downey, the Orange County district attorney's office and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

Seventeen of the 43 retired. Of those, seven said they retired early because of the "political environment." Six retired for unspecified medical reasons.

Two officers were terminated. One of those officers had six years of service, the other five. Because the terminations are a confidential personnel matter, officials declined to elaborate on them.

The reasons for leaving the department came through exit interviews, most of which Gazsi personally conducted.

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