Council gets update from PD Chief on his first 100 days with SPPD

November 27, 2013
Santa Paula City Council

By Peggy Kelly 

Santa Paula Times 

Seven more police officers have been hired, training is up, a gang enforcement team has been reactivated and more gang bangers have been arrested the City Council learned during an update by Police Chief Steve McLean on his first 100 days leading the Santa Paula Police Department.

McLean, who became chief July 1, also told the council at the November 18 meeting that four of five suspects sought in four murders were also arrested; the suspect or suspects in a fifth murder this year have not yet been identified.

His first goal was to “Fill all our vacancies,” said McLean.

“We had seven when I got here, had 21 officers including myself,” but now five recruits will graduate from the sheriff’s academy in April and two veteran officers have been hired.

The new recruits and officers are a, “A good balance,” for the total 28 positions now allotted for sworn officers. One lateral hire is a former SPPD Officer who returned after taking a job with Oxnard Police and the second is a 22-year-veteran of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, where McLean spent 32 years before he retired. 

The former sheriff’s deputy now hired spent half his LASO career on an “Elite gang unit” according to McLean.

The second goal, to revive the SPPD gang enforcement team, “Had some tremendous results,” with 36 “significant arrests.... I will say this: I can’t give all credit to the gang enforcement team,” as the entire force has done a “tremendous job” in targeting gang members.

Six firearms were recovered during the arrests, which included “drug dealers and many of those gang members, most actually, on probation and parole.”

Gang violence spiraled shown in a three-month year-over-year comparison that reported such incidents had increased by 55 percent.

But McLean said since July, “Our violent crime has been reduced by,” 25.6 percent according to the written report.

“ ....I am so proud of these guys. I know they’re the lowest paid in the county but they don’t complain, they go out there and do their job, they’re the ones that are confronting the gang members.

“I won’t take any credit,” said McLean. “I know you’ll say ‘good job chief,’ “ but those deserving credit are the officers.

Two thirds of those arrested were Santa Paula-based criminal street-gang members, four were arrested in connection with homicides and another five were arrested for violent assault.

So far this year Santa Paula had five homicides compared to past years of one or two.

McLean told the council, “The reduction in crime says a lot about the men out there doing the job.... “

Meeting the community was McLean’s third goal, and “as far as meet and greet I’ve been out there, only taken six days off since I started. I’m not complaining, I love my job,” which he said includes meeting with “stakeholders” throughout the community. 

He has met with educators and community members and been a guest speaker at schools and “half a dozen churches,” held coffees with the chief and a park barbecue among other interactions.

“The point is this being chief is not a 9 to 5 job,” but rather noted Mclean, “it’s doing what the job requires.”

Training has also been reactivated: “Training is one of the most critical needs of any police department,” states a report he prepared for the council that noted that such training had been suspended the past year due to staff shortages including the lack of a training coordinator.

The SPPD Special Response Team (SRT) also had the opportunity to train for three days with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department SWAT Team.

Neighborhood Watch has more than doubled to 900 members following a presentation at Limoneira Ranch and McLean said those volunteers who watch out for others, “are critical.... it’s more effective than putting 100 cops on the street corners.”

Risk management also is being emphasized with more training and an officer assigned to the program to reduce and mitigate liability as well as internal investigations.

McLean thanked the council and City Manager Jaime Fontes for their continued support. 

Councilman Bob Gonzales thanked McLean for his “phenomenal” efforts including those shared with Lt. Ishmael Cordero.

“You two make a great team,” said Gonzales, the city’s former police chief.

McLean is a former captain with the LASO who led the Altadena substation for several years retiring in 2012.

In Santa Paula, McLean replaced Cordero, then a police sergeant who served as interim chief of police since April 2012.

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