On Oct. 25, veteran police officer Jess Gilman retired, leaving a huge void in our local schools — a void that cannot be filled because the City Council refuses to allow the police chief to staff the Police Department adequately.

As a result, unlike in Newport Beach Schools, we no longer have any school resource officers in Costa Mesa. The next day, the Costa Mesa Police Department announced the retirement of four senior police management officers: one captain, two Lieutenants and one Sergeant. This is only the beginning—as many as 25 officers may retire in the next 18 months. This does not include additional officers expected to lateral (transfer) to other cities. The City Council, including Steve Mensinger and Gary Monahan, is responsible for the severe shortage of police officers in Costa Mesa.


FOR THE RECORD:
Due to a technical issue Wednesday night, this commentary temporarily disappeared from the website after publication. It was restored Friday morning.

There are fewer police officers patrolling the streets today than at any time in the past 15 years. In fact, there are fewer police officers today than there were 30 years ago, because we have not hired a new police officer since 2008. Costa Mesa has the 2nd highest amount of early release prisoners in the county—second only to Santa Ana. There are 92 parolees living in our city today. Overall, crime is up 17.6% and burglary is up 38%. Every special detail—Detectives, Gangs, and Traffic—is understaffed for the demand.

Recently, your mailboxes have been flooded with deceptive political mail from the Political Action Committees (PACs) supporting the campaigns of Mr. Mensinger and Planning Commissioner Colin McCarthy.

The mailer says that Costa Mesa police officers are the highest paid in the county — but this isn't true. In fact, the city of Costa Mesa recently released information confirming that it isn't. Mr. Mensinger and Mr. McCarthy know this, but they sent out the mailer anyway.

The mailer also contains mistruths regarding the status of the current compensation negotiations with the Police Department. The mailer falsely states that Costa Mesa’s police officers “refuse to sit down and discuss the reforms necessary to reduce overtime and fix out-of-control pension costs.”

This is simply not the case. The Costa Mesa Police Assn. met with the city several times during the last year and agreed to pension reform, including increased employee contributions to their pensions. The city, at the direction of the City Council, then canceled a meeting that had been scheduled this summer, and they have refused to meet with the CMPA since.

They obviously care more about campaign politics than public safety and cost reductions. Overtime costs were never brought up at any meeting the CMPA had with the city, because the direct cause of the overtime is the City Council’s unwillingness to hire police officers to staff the department.

Our police department runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is grossly understaffed due to the City Council’s political games, yet in their mailers Mr. Mensinger and Mr. McCarthy deceive the voters and point the finger of blame at our police officers.

Finally, the mailer falsely states that Costa Mesa Police officers made a false DUI accusation. Of course, this isn't true either. Mr. Mensinger and Mr. McCarthy know that it was a private investigator that reported Mr. Righeimer as DUI. The investigation is pending, but there is no evidence that the Costa Mesa Police Department was involved.

It’s shocking to me how this council, and the council candidates, are willing to deceive Costa Mesa residents and attack our right to security of person. They want to win the election at any cost.

If Mr. Mensinger and Mr. McCarthy are willing to ignore the facts while the political spotlight is on Costa Mesa, imagine what they will do as council members behind closed doors — where there will be little to no oversight if the charter passes.

If I'm elected, I will hire the police officers we need to keep Costa Mesa safe. City CEO tom Hatch has said that it would cost about $1.5 million a year to hire 12 new officers. Instead, the City Council decided to waste $2.5 million on legal fees in fiscal year 2012 alone. I will cut through the deception and ensure that our city is safe. Costa Mesa needs leadership that doesn't play games with the safety of its citizens. We can do this.

Attorney JOHN STEPHENS is a candidate for Costa Mesa City Council.