Dear Laguna Beach Community,
As I reflect on the last year as your Chief of Police, serving this community has been the most rewarding part of my 30-year career. I wake up every day humbled to serve the people of this amazing community and lead and support this organization’s outstanding men and women. My vision is for us to be the safest coastal community in Orange County through exceptional policing and community engagement. I hope to achieve this goal through data-driving policing, using technology as a force multiplier, community outreach and engagement, and investing in our most valuable asset, our employees, with the support of the City management and City Council.
I am so proud of our team, who come to work every day and make personal sacrifices to ensure you are safe, secure and receive exceptional police service in the City of Laguna Beach.
Like many police organizations across the nation, we continue to feel the stress due to the ongoing ripple effects of Covid, the “defund the police” and anti-police movements, and staffing shortages. This is not an issue of culture at the City of Laguna Beach, but rather the same issue that is facing police departments throughout the country. Even with staffing shortages, we have continued to keep our community safe, cover all shifts, and are proud to have responded to 11,293 calls for service over the summer. Like many other cities facing police shortages, we currently have a robust recruitment campaign running with a $15,000 hiring bonus for qualified lateral police officers and dispatchers. We are encouraged to see an inspiring response from potential candidates across the country.
We value our employees and have also devoted time and resources to creating a wellness plan to take care of our current employees and ensure they are supported. We’ve contracted with a well-known police psychologist to help create a holistic plan to guide our sworn and professional staff and provide them with mental, physical, spiritual and financial support. Highlights include the addition of our first ‘wellness facility dog’ and a new partnership with the Laguna Beach County Water District to construct a gym at their facility for physical fitness. We will continue to invest in our employees who selflessly give so much to this community to make certain we all remain safe.
I want to highlight a few of our recent efforts to support our goal of providing exceptional public safety service while creating internal opportunities. We will soon be deploying two new apprehension and narcotics detection K-9 officers so that we have coverage seven days a week. Corporal McGuire, and his new partner K-9 Officer Rudy, just returned from their six-week training program and are already doing great. We are excited to introduce Rudy at the Sept. 20 City Council meeting and look forward to deploying our second dog early next year.
We also recently signed a new agreement with the Newport Beach Police Department to create the first SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team in our department’s history. Sergeant Darrel Short and Corporal Abe Ocampo were selected and are excited to be our first two SWAT operators. Our community recently stayed safe as a result of this team when the joint SWAT team was recently deployed in South Laguna to successfully arrest an attempted murder suspect who refused to leave his home. These new SWAT positions will create opportunities for our officers and elevate our overall training throughout our organization.
We also established the new Neighborhood Enhancement Team (NET). The NET Team addresses quality of life issues throughout our community and at our beaches and parks, impacted mainly by visitors. Sergeant William Downing leads the team, with Corporals Britnie Priest and Jimmy Gramer in supporting positions. When fully staffed, the NET team will include five full-time and five part-time Park Rangers, our two Community Outreach Officers to address homelessness, our traffic motor officers, and our Community Services Officer, responsible for outreach and engagement. The newly established Park Rangers will have all the same equipment as a police officer – minus a handgun. We are excited to share that our third full-time Park Ranger starts this week.
Community outreach and engagement are a priority for the Laguna Beach Police Department and just one of the reasons why we are unique compared to other police organizations. We are only successful with the support, feedback and partnership from the people who live and work here. We pride ourselves that our relationship with the community continues to grow. Over the last year, it has been wonderful to meet and talk to so many of you at events like our Citizens Academy, two teen leadership academies, our Road Safety Expo, more than 40 E-bike education presentations, Coffee with a Cop, and the ice-cream social.
We have come a long way as a department over the past year because of our employees’ creative ideas and willingness to work toward positive changes with support from City Manager and City Council. We still have a lot of good change coming, but one thing remains our mission, to ensure you are safe, secure, and receive exceptional police service in the City of Laguna Beach. We’re optimistic about our future, and I look forward to introducing you to our new team members and celebrate the accomplishments we create together as a community.
In community spirit,
Jeff Calvert, Police ChiefView Our User Comment Policy