Damn Good Policing

Leaving SCPD was a difficult choice. The age of our grandkids, my brother’s sickness, and death played an essential role in my decision-making process. Ultimately, I recognize the time had come for me to be closer to my family and make room for someone else to lead.

Bernie Escalante is the Interim Chief of Police, and I could not be happier. I ask you to support and trust Chief Escalante. Work with him and push forward under his direction. Bernie has demonstrated he has your best interest at heart; now, he must balance that with the expectations of a divided community. To have a healthy organization, you must accept that support is a two-way street.  

Thank you for the enormous amount of work you put in.  During the past four years, you handled around 500K calls for service and thousands of other community contacts. You made about 20,000 arrests. Many of these were severe and complex cases that took a great deal of determination and expertise. You took guns off of the street at a record clip. No doubt, you prevented shootings, and that saved lives.

SCPD, you policed during a worldwide pandemic, consistent budget shortfalls, the murder of a colleague, more than 60 large protests, and civil unrests. You deployed for numerous critical incidents that took patience, skill, and expertise to resolve. Yet, despite it all, you held your head high, policed with passion, and honored your badge. I am proud of you.

SCPD officers saved lives. One person alone saved three lives through medical assistance and tourniquets. You deescalated numerous incidents that could have been officer-involved shootings. Your actions, tactics, and choices saved lives, reduced the use of force, and made Santa Cruz safer. There is no higher intrinsic reward than saving one’s life.  It is clear, SCPD policies with honor and integrity. 

During the past four years, there were only three complaints that resulted in serious discipline.  Three!  SCPD is not perfect, but damn SCPD, you are good. Your integrity is validated by independent oversight and public scrutiny. There were serious accusations of prejudice.  Each time, we investigated the claims dutifully as we should and found them to be unmerited. We worked hard to clear the names of our officers when the allegations were false.

Some people would have you believe you will be sacrificed at the altar of social justice and racial equity. You’ve seen the opposite. There are fewer problems when we police with care and concern for our fellow community members because there is trust. The majority of the community has given SCPD the benefit of the doubt. Collaboration is not antithetical to good policing; it’s essential to good policing. It is impossible to police effectively without solid community support.    

SCPD made significant headway into community collaboration. It paid off. As a result of our proactive engagement and your objectivity and fairness, our community chose not to riot.  The Santa Cruz community chose not to be violent or commit significant acts of vandalism because there is a bond between the SCPD and the community. SCPD does not over police; instead, your practices are just and fair. Collaboration or neighborhood policing is a strategy that must be constantly nurtured, or else it withers.

Your unseen compassion sets you apart, from the cop who paid for the parking tickets of a homeless person living in a motorhome to the patrol officer who dipped into his pocket to clothe a naked woman. You have done well in balancing compassion and accountability.

Some might say our departmental youth is a problem. I say our youth is an asset. There is an excellent opportunity for growth and movement for those who seek it. This younger generation of cops is more innovative, confident, and capable than my generation and those who followed me. Carry on with confidence. You’ve earned it.

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