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Costa Mesa police chief warns cutbacks would hurt city's 'community policing'

June 11, 2011 |  1:06 pm

http://www.latimes.com/media/photo/2011-05/61401923.jpg

Costa Mesa's police chief has expressed concerns about proposed cuts in his department. Twelve sworn police officer positions and one non-sworn position face elimination under a proposed Police Department restructuring plan released Friday.

City Chief Executive Tom Hatch's proposal to save an estimated $1.35 million a year would reduce the number of active-duty police officers from 139 to 131, according to the Daily Pilot.

However, in a letter to Hatch, interim Police Chief Steve Staveley said that significant cuts to the force would hinder its ability to continue to do community policing, where officers solve problems at their roots instead of merely responding to calls.

"Let me be very clear … I am a very strong advocate and longtime practitioner of what is now called community-oriented or -based policing," Staveley wrote. "Anytime an agency as busy as the Costa Mesa Police Department falls below a certain level of staffing you must expect that it will develop into a strictly law enforcement agency."

The plan would add 10 sworn reserve positions, two K-9 units to patrol, two park rangers, a crime scene specialist and four support jobs, as well as transfer four helicopter pilots to ground-based duties, city spokesman Bill Lobdell said in a news release.

The plan also proposes that Costa Mesa share SWAT team duties with neighboring communities, outsource the city jail and fold the 911 center into the Police Department.

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-- Lauren Williams, Times Community News

Photo: Yellow tape surrounds a crime scene in Costa Mesa. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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