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Commentary: Too many cops are leaving the CMPD

March 07, 2014|By Geoff West

Recently the city of Costa Mesa made available four reports regarding the staffing and attrition of the Costa Mesa Police Department over the past few years ("Report: Departing cops cite political tensions, Feb. 26). These reports, now available on the city's website, were generated in response to a demand by members of the City Council a few weeks ago.

The results are distressing.

One report shows a list of separations and hires for 2012 and 2013 and January 2014. During that 25-month period we had 26 departures — 10 resignations, 14 retirements and two discharges. During the same period we had 12 new hires — four academy graduates, six recruits and two laterals. Unfortunately, three (25%) of those new hires left after just a month or two.

Another report shows the recruitment activity for the CMPD from May 24, 2013, through Feb. 12. It showed 2,782 applications received; 188 applicants interviewed; 104 applicants selected for background checks; eight started the academy and zero hired.

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As you can see, the process for identifying, screening and ultimately selecting good police officer candidates can be slow and time-consuming.

A third report shows 2011 to 2014 attrition. During that period, 43 sworn officers departed. Of those, based on my analysis of the data, the nearly 60% who either left for other jobs or retired gave as their reason for leaving "due to the political environment."

Forty-two percent of those who left moved on to other agencies/cities and continue to work in law enforcement today, according to the report.

Several of those men and women left to jobs for less pay, according to a report in the Orange County Register ("With staffing at historic lows, 'it's like a ghost town'," Feb. 26.). We recently lost one outstanding drug enforcement officer to a nearby agency. He generated tens of thousands of dollars in asset forfeiture revenue for the city each year. Now he is gone, using his expertise elsewhere in Orange County. One departed officer was named police officer of the year at his new agency. We didn't just lose numbers; we lost some of the cream of our crop to those other agencies.

Eight officers who identified themselves as "retiring due to the political environment" averaged almost 26 years experience on the job, according to the city report. The loss of that experience and leadership is almost incalculable, particularly under the current circumstances.

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