Laguna Needs Community Oversight of Police

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Editor,

Santa Rosa established a community and local law enforcement task force following a shooting by Deputy Erick Gelhaus, who believed the airsoft rifle the teen was carrying was an AK-47 rifle, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported.

Sonoma County Community Oversight of Police Practices is calling for a community oversight board with the power to fully investigate critical incidents, following the killing of a teen by a sheriff’s deputy, KTVU.com reported.

A public oversight committee could be of service to the Laguna Beach Police Department  in light of the recent tragic death of the Laguna Beach police officer who lost his life in September of 2013. The tragic loss of motorcycle officer Jon Coutchie whereby LBPD public information officer “alleges the officer was engaged in a high pursuit chase of an ‘alleged’ phantom vehicle that was never cited nor discovered on any of our numerous video surveillance cameras or automatic license plate readers we have installed throughout town.” The young driver of the truck broadsided by the LBPD officer’s motorcycle was fortunate to not have likewise sustained lethal unintended consequences caused in part by officer’s excessive speed.

It appears LBPD would benefit from community citizen oversight on developing new protocol for “high speed pursuit” where the number one priority of safety of citizens, pedestrians, bicyclists and officers should be prioritized.

The city manager should be encouraged to hire a new police chief, from outside our small local police department that can bring new leadership and fresh ideas to the department. Many of those speaking at a local community forum in favor of a local promotion came from local LBPD volunteers, who have existing relationships with the LBPD. The city manager should beware of nepotism and the resulting negative public perception that would result from an internal promotion.

Lorene Auger, Laguna Beach

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  1. I wish not to diminish the intent of Lorene’s post on the appointment of a new police chief, but I will take this opportunity to offer the oversight committee a short-cut. If Jon Coutchie were alive today I would advise him of the golden rule of motorcycling. It’s not “never drive faster than conditions allow” but rather “everyone is out to kill you”. The drama in that phrase has kept me and fellow MC riders accident-free for tens of thousands of miles in 47 years of riding despite all road conditions, weather, day and night all over this country. If authorities would finally confess Jon’s accident was due to bad rider judgement, then the citizen oversight committee could rather rectify conditions that rank Laguna Beach the most dangerous town in 107 OC cites for pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists.

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