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Costa Mesa names veteran Newport Beach officer as police chief

Tom Gazsi, second from right

Costa Mesa officials Monday introduced a 32-year Newport Beach veteran officer as the city's new police chief.

At a news conference at police headquarters, Costa Mesa Chief Executive Tom Hatch introduced Tom Gazsi, 51, who has had the rank of captain in Newport Beach since 2007.

Monday's announcement ends a nearly 3 1/2-month search after former Police Chief Christopher Shawkey was put on administrative leave and later resigned amid reports that he had filed official expense claims for personal trips he took to Arizona, where he lived before being hired by Costa Mesa.

After Shawkey stepped down, the department had a series of interim chiefs, including Costa Mesa Capt. Les Gogerty, former Belmont and La Habra Police Chief Steve Staveley and former La Habra Chief Dennis Kies.

Initially, the city received 60 applications from candidates nationwide who work for various law enforcement agencies. The pool was eventually narrowed to three candidates who interviewed with Hatch about two weeks ago.

Gazsi, who lives in Costa Mesa, joined the Newport Beach Police Department in 1979 and was promoted to lieutenant in 2001.

In the mid-2000s, the Newport Beach department was accused of favoritism and unfair promotions. The city also lost a lawsuit in 2009 to a former officer, Neil Harvey, who said he was overlooked for promotion because of false rumors that he was gay. That year, then-Chief John Klein resigned after a vote of no confidence from the police management union.

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-- Lauren Williams

Photo: Tom Gazsi, second from right, in 2007.

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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