Public Safety is Job One!
Santa Monicans need to feel safe in their apartments and homes. We want to think that our balconies, garages, carports, bedrooms, and stairwells are places of refuge from the outside world. In our town, we want to feel secure in our ability to walk down a street or boulevard without the threat of assault, battery or robbery occurring. We are in a big city, but we still expect safety and comfort when parking in a public garage or going to one of our public parks to decompress from our daily lives.
We demand some level of civic responsibility, adherence to certain contemporary norms of behavior, and a feeling of general comfort in the city in which we have chosen to reside. We have always experienced crime in our city. Our population swells significantly as the daily influx of visitors and workforce employees arrives. Statistics show that our residents are correct in feeling worried about their safety and personal property. Crime levels climbed almost 30% from January 2016 through December 2019. It's an unheard increase in daily crime, and we all sense it and see it every day.
Do we accept this increase as the new normal, or do we ask the hard questions about what we can do in conjunction with our police department to turn this ship around and reduce the constant bombardment of threats to our public safety?
I believe our communal public safety is the most fundamental role of our city's public officials. In Santa Monica's case, our City Council Members have failed, miserably. It's time for a change.
Job #1 is to make our city safe again. That will be my highest obligation as your councilperson, each and every day. It's not an easy task. But nothing worthwhile is easy. We must heal our community - from crime, from looting, and from a lack of accountability from our city government.
We need SMART policing, not TOUGH policing in Santa Monica!
- Establish an independent police commission to provide civilian oversight over the Santa Monica Police Department.
- We want a highly educated and well trained department with competent leaders. I believe we have that now; however, the public expects even more. Our police must be aware of inherent racial bias and must treat all humans, regardless of color or socioeconomic background, with care, understanding, and sensitivity. Our police need to be builders of public trust. SMPD must be a diverse, first-class department for the 21st Century.
- We need more police on our streets, 24 hours a day. Eliminate some special resource officer units to provide a more visible police presence throughout Santa Monica. Under current staffing levels, the SMPD can already place a minimum of seven more officers on our streets, beach, and light rail station on every shift. They should be on foot or bicycle in high traffic areas.
- Return the department to eight quadrants (beats). Ensure that there are more officers close to each area of the city, for speed of emergency response and patrol purposes.
- We have thirty officers assigned to detective duty. For the next twelve months, reassign a dozen of them to beat duty. We will not need as many detectives if we can prevent crime from occurring.
- Boost the Homeless Liaison Team (HELP). Presently elements of the Help Team are only on day shift during weekdays, yet we have homeless related problems twenty-four hours a day every day. Let's make sure this specialized unit can respond quickly to quality of life disturbances throughout our city. Note that many instances of crime involve our homeless humans attacking one another. The Help Teams are first responders and prevention specialists trained to reduce those crimes.
- Our parks have become infested with blatant illegal drug use. Our parks must be off-limits for drugs. Arrest and charge dealers and users. Many of the arrests will be felonies. Years ago, the SMPD cleaned up Palisades Park by arresting users and dealers within the park. Now we have significant issues in several parks. Let's clean them up.
- Our Park Rangers were a friendly presence in our city parks. They also were good stewards of proper behavior and park protocol. Unfortunately the Park Ranger unit was eliminated. Our park visitors became more unruly, and a uniformed presence was lacking where it was needed most. Our cost for Park Rangers is significantly less than that of a uniformed officer. Reestablish the Park Ranger corps and assign Park Rangers on a full-time basis to those parks that need safety and security. The DTSM "ambassadors" just don't cut it as surrogate Rangers.
- The lion's share of emergency calls for alcohol and mental health issues parallel the calls for domestic violence and substance abuse. The police need help in answering those calls successfully. While you would never send an unarmed professional on a domestic violence call, successful intervention by mental health and drug addiction professionals may help defuse those potentially dangerous responses. Adding crisis counselors to the SMPD is vital.
- The Santa Monica Pier is an icon. There needs to be a more significant, assigned police presence there. The beat there needs to expand, and the beach, the Pier and the boardwalk must be patrolled by a dedicated team, 24 hours a day. That includes patrols of the perpetual hot spots of the surface parking lots both north and south of the Pier. The city has a huge responsibility to keep one of the highest visibility targets in the Western United States safe and secure.
- Work with Neighborhood Associations to help foster smart crime prevention. Form neighborhood watches to stop crime on your block. The extra eyes and ears supplement police efforts and help boost our community involvement as well.
- Several years ago, the City Attorney, at the urging of business owners, instituted an ordinance that forbade people from sleeping in the doorways of businesses. This ordinance stated that the owner must display a sign stating that no one was allowed to sleep in that spot. SMPD representatives believe that the ordinance should read differently. If a business wants to allow sleeping in their doorway, they can post a sign to that effect. That would be much easier for SMPD to enforce and less burdensome for the business owner. I agree. Let's reverse the ordinance.
- While we are a compassionate people, there must be limits. In downtown, the presence of Samoshel is a magnet for the downtrodden, who flock to our community—it's meant to be a temporary stop-gap solution for those in need. However it appears that the “tent” has become permanent. As many say, it is like milk left on the porch for cats. It is a draw that attracts more crimes of opportunity to our downtown area and is a destination for many from outside our city and state. Our police department is already stretched too thin. The facility must be closed. Mental health service facilities should be the responsibility of Los Angeles County, not individual cities. We can work with the People Concern and with LA County to assess the best way we can provide some necessary services.
- Other cities continue to prosecute misdemeanors, while Santa Monica ignores them. Yes, I know that the justice system is a turnstile; however, it is our obligation to keep our community safe. The City Attorney must be a willing partner in this effort. With over two dozen assistant city attorneys, I'm sure we have the resources to prosecute misdemeanors.
- We have traffic problems that seem to be intractable, so our city leaders ignore them or make them worse. Let's use environmental design whenever we can to stem the effects of traffic congestion on our bicyclists, pedestrians, and micro-mobility users.
- e-scooters have been a menace to public safety and have intensified the chaos on our streets. We can do much more to regulate the proliferation of micro-mobility devices. There have been too many paramedic calls and severe injuries from their use. Let's reduce the number of devices allowed on our roads. We can drop the allowed amount by 75%. Ensure they have built-in locks, so they are anchored to drop off areas and never left blocking sidewalks or streets. As geo-fencing becomes more accurate, we can establish more no-go zones. Lastly, the vendors must be held accountable, or they must leave our city.
These are just a few of the initiatives that for which I will demand action on. We have no choice. The stakes are too high. As residents, our local government and our residents must work together with honesty and transparency to solve the myriad of problems in Santa Monica.I know you're asking where's my low-down on the looting of May 31st and my opinion of our current police administration. You can locate my summary of the day's events and the aftermath on a different "issues" page
I do have two questions? Where is the damn incident report for May 31st, and when will the independent investigation begin? It's rather convenient that the results won't be available until after the November 3rd election!
It is important to note that the above suggestions are meant solely to help our police officers do the difficult job that they signed up for while protecting our residents and visitors from harm. Each member of the Santa Monica Police Department wears the badge of our city because they are an integral part of our community. While many are denigrating all police with a broad brush because of the horrible actions of a few wearing a badge who should never have been hired in their respective communities, I know that our police officers receive better training, are better educated, and care deeply about our community.
I support all efforts to eradicate racism from every department in the nation and support the efforts in our community to make sure that diversity is valued in our department. I have had friends and mentors within the SMPD my entire life. The job they signed up is not an easy one and recent events have made it more difficult to enforce the law equitably. The chart below is indicative of the dilemma they face each shift. There are less of them every day in our town than other local, comparable cities. They face great tasks and perform admirably. While others want to "defund" and "reallocate" funds away from the SMPD, we need to realize how precarious our public safety is each day. Assist them by adding social service and mental health personnel as adjunct forces to the city's public safety needs.