Wide-ranging audit of the Santa Paula Police Department released

January 30, 2004
Santa Paula City Council
The wide-ranging audit of the Santa Paula Police Department has been released and will be considered by the City Council at Monday’s meeting. The 70-page audit by management consultants Arroyo Associates contained 39 recommendations ranging from the City Council working with the police department to define expectations and develop a focused mission to development of a streamlined work plan, sharpening service delivery and filling all budgeted but unfilled positions as well as hiring seven more officers.The report summary also notes that the department should also consider “institutionalizing community and problem orientated policing into routine operations.”Although public satisfaction with the department ranked high, criticisms included response to calls deemed minor, focusing more on timely evaluations, creating a discipline policy and a SPPD staff sense that Chief Bob Gonzales plays favorites with promotions, special assignments and training.The report recommended that the department be restructured and resources used more efficiently.Vice Mayor Mary Ann Krause said she will study the report, “particularly the proposed organizational changes. . .I want to make sure we don’t make changes simply for the sake of making changes.”Although Krause said she has concerns “about the lack of effective management within the department, the issue raised of the department not having clear goals goes back to where the City Council was prior to the last election. It’s a situation that is easily remedied: it just takes people sitting down and talking it through.”Chief Bob Gonzales said he disagrees with a number of the recommendations but “I do agree with funding of the department to a level that we should be funded,” including the approximately $500,000 annually for seven new officers.In spite of the fiscal shortfall and the - at times - critical report, “our mission has always been that the officers need to put the bad guys in jail,” said Chief Gonzales. “. . .and they’ve done that very well.”Staffing, facility and added equipment are all money issues, he added.And reorganization of the department would be a step back to 20 years ago: “We’ve found our present model more efficient; it gives officers more of a direct line to command staff,” noted Chief Gonzales.Needs, wants and expectations must be defined with the City Council, he added.Some issues raised in the report are moot, such as hiring Community Service Officers – now only one of the three positions is currently open – and others, such as responding to calls of stolen garden hoses, while pesky, are part of community policing. Chief Gonzales said such calls were handled by officers during openings of CSOs.Another criticism, that officers are required to oversee child exchanges between parents, is court ordered, Chief Gonzales said.Some comments cannot be responded to with certainty due to the anonymity of the sources, he added.Community policing has been initiated and Neighborhood Watch type programs have been used by the SPPD in the past but now needs more officers, Chief Gonzales said.
“An officer walking the downtown, school presentations, visits to the Boys & Girls Club, playing Santa at the storefront, they’re all community policing.”Evaluations are mostly on time and other recommendations such as for fluid officer disciplinary or complaint incidents are paced on a case-by-case basis.Promotions, assignments and training do not reflect favoritism but rather who is best suited for the job or assignment, Chief Gonzales said. “I told my son he would never be hired here and I’ve had my own relatives arrested. . .that’s not showing favoritism.”He objected to the recommendation that the two commander positions be exchanged for an Assistant Chief and business manager. “We’ve been there before and it didn’t work. . .”Shifting officers from 12 hour shifts would take the SPPD out of step with other departments and the issue is between the SPPOA and the city, he added.The recommendation that the city request a proposal from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department to take over services would still boil down to money that would be better spent beefing up the SPPD and better utilizing officers street smarts when it comes to crime and criminals, said Chief Gonzales.“We’ve had a significant reduction in the crime rate,” when other cities have seen crime rise, due to proactive policing he noted.The recommendation of more joint actions with other law enforcement agencies is a victim of statewide budget cutting. “All agencies are doing their own thing now. . .we have to take care of our issues at home first.”“I agree 100 percent and think we should bring elephants in,” said Chief Gonzales with a laugh about the recommendation to discontinue the K-9 program.He noted that the dogs have “proven to be a phenomenal asset,” not only in crime fighting but also for community outreach. SPPD K-9s have been purchased by the community or asset seizure funds, he added, and ongoing maintenance is only about $4,000 annually.The report will be formally presented to the City Council Monday night and “my job will be to determine what can be implemented and come up with a strategic plan within the next six weeks. I think our officers are doing a wonderful job although there’s always room for improvement. There’s been nothing unethical or improper in the department and we do the best we can with what we have.”Chief Gonzales said money is the major issue and it’s up to the City Council to find relief for the department’s finances. “I hope the council understands and will fix what has to be fixed,” and find additional funding through a “bond issue, utility tax or property tax,” dedicated to enhancing law enforcement.“I’m proud to say our officers are great with the public and the community and great with getting the bad guys; the city has a very professional organization that serves the community well.”

Site Search



Call 805 525 1890 to receive the entire paper early. $50.00 for one year.