To the extent the cry to “defund police” is a plea to dismantle the police, this idea is dangerous and unsound. A strong and high-functioning police department is a necessary ingredient in the recipe for a vibrant Santa Ana for the 21st Century.
- You want Santa Ana to be safe … you need the SAPD.
- You want a reduction in gangs … you need the SAPD.
- You want to bring business to Santa Ana … you need to portray Santa Ana as tough on crime which means … you need the SAPD.
- You want a robust and vibrant downtown … you need the SAPD.
- You want to keep residents from leaving Santa Ana … you need the SAPD.
The SAPD is not the only solution; however, there is no doubt that the SAPD is part of the solution.
Katz does not believe that by simply divesting the SAPD of funding will reduce police violence or produce healthier relationships with the neighborhoods they patrol.
Yet, with that acknowledgement, Katz does believe that reform is appropriate. Here are some of Katz’s thoughts on the Santa Ana Police Department:
1. Improve Community Relations
Every interaction between a police officer and a Santanero seems to be imbued with tension. Despite the loud voices of today’s protestors, Katz believes that the majority of Ward 3 supports law enforcement officers and what they do. Our residents do want to interact with the police and get to know them as people. However, the police avoid interactions because of how they perceive the public feels about them. The perception in the media is not the reality and police should conduct themselves accordingly.
- An officer should not adopt an authoritarian tone each time he/she interacts with the public. Police should gauge the situation and act accordingly.
- Each core job function in any business must be accompanied by a public relations component. Every business is aware of this; the police should likewise develop this awareness. Police officers must be trained – and this should not be difficult – that every time they interact with the public, the public has an opportunity to – and will – judge the SAPD. These are opportunities to heal the SAPD’s relationship with the people they are asked to protect.
- “Walk the Beat.” A phenomenon from yesteryear. Most of our interactions with the police are limited to when they drive down the street, windows rolled up and sunglasses on. They have become disconnected to our communities. Our police need to get out of their squad cars, walk the beat and get to know the citizens they protect.
- The City should adopt a program which promotes police living where they work. It allows the community to know the police outside their law enforcement roles.
- Volunteer in Santa Ana. Serving the community should not stop when the uniform comes off. Volunteering will keep the police and our neighbors connected.
Police must engage on a personal level with those they are charged with policing. The SAPD will be successful if they become fully immersed in Santa Ana communities. It is much harder to hate up close.
2. Re-Delegate Police Non-Violent Assignments
Katz is a proponent of efficient government and not overspending on any single line items.
There is business concept in the area of project management: the project leader should always delegate to the lowest possible organizational level.
We expect our police to handle too much in Santa Ana and to respond to all problems—even if the problems are not criminal in nature: enforcing traffic laws; generating traffic collision reports; answering 911 calls about barking dogs and loud parties, etc.
Katz believes the City and the SAPD Police Chief should be identifying alternatives. In some cases, the alternatives will be more cost-efficient. In other cases, the alternatives may result with the reassignment to a professional who is more qualified to address the problem. For example, we should have mental-health providers responding to calls involving people who are having mental health crises.
The exercise of re-delegation will free up the police to do what only the police can do. This will reduce the strain we have periodically endured with an undermanned police force.
3. Build a Robust Volunteer Program
The SAPD proclaims to have a volunteer program – Santa Ana Volunteers for Excellence (SAVE) Program – to assist the SAPD in a variety of areas.
Katz can attest that this program is nothing more than a cute acronym that does not engage Santa Ana citizens for meaningful help. Katz submitted an application to the SAVE program on December 12, 2018. He had to fight to be interviewed and to have his background properly vetted. Despite the fact that this process was successfully completed in October 2019, the SAPD has yet to utilize Katz. There must be some role an educated attorney can fill!
Katz would direct the SAPD to implement a program similar to our neighbor – the City of Orange. The Orange Police Department has adopted a philosophy of partnering with the community through the use of dedicated volunteers. The OPD Volunteer Program is made up of Orange residents who have successfully graduated from the Citizen Police Academy and decided they want to give back to their community.
Volunteers can perform a wide array of functions for the SAPD:
- Administrative (prepare reports, respond to citizen inquiries, help telephone reporting units take reports on minor and “no suspect” crimes)
- Citizen Patrol (read parking meters, provide bike patrols in community parks, write citations, provide home vacation checks, provide visual deterrents)
- Community Liaison Activities (staff community policing substations, sit on citizens’ advisory boards)
- Neighborhood Watch
- Research (compile crime data for specific area problems, utilize crime mapping and analysis)
- Youth-Related Activities (assist in PAAL, serve as a mentor, help with youth citizen academies)
- Assist with
- Victim assistance
- Special events
- Controlling traffic at accident scenes
- Assisting with DUI checkpoints
- Providing follow-up services on cold cases
- Participating in the juvenile diversion program
- Crime scene searches
- Pawnshop recovery detail
- Graffiti abatement
If the City is successful in redelegating outside the SAPD and efficiently using volunteers, we can free up funds for essential youth programs which focus on prevention.
4. Police Oversight Commission
Transparency is important. But how many of our neighbors will take the time to read SAPD’s Policy No. 300 on use of force? Simply publishing the SAPD policies will not do enough to garner public trust.
Katz believes that it is time for Santa Ana to form a Police Oversight Commission to investigate complaints promptly, fairly, and impartially against Santa Ana police officers. This is a necessary step in mending the broken relationship with the SAPD. However, the commission cannot be staffed with “friends of councilmembers.” These citizens must simultaneously have an awareness of the challenges a police officer has when he or she responds to a call balanced with an understanding of the distress the community has endured, at times, when interfacing with the SAPD. Katz would advocate, as a prerequisite to serving on the Police Oversight Commission, that candidates participate in 20 hours of police ride-alongs and attend a Citizens Academy.
Three times in Katz’s career, his responsibilities included training staff on customer service. The skill is closely related to mitigating the risk of lawsuits. For example, it is well-documented that doctors (and their staff) who possess good bedside manner are less likely to be sued for medical practice – despite the quality of their care.
Katz often spoke about interactions he labeled as “Moments of Truth” – events that allow a customer to pass judgment about a business. For example, when a customer shops at Albertson’s on 17th Street, there are a hundred Moments of Truth from entering the parking lot until the groceries are bagged. A customer can have 99 positive Moments of Truth, but yet the experience could be tainted by one negative moment.
Katz believes that the overwhelming majority of the SAPD are officers in which our City can be proud. However, occasional Moments of Truth are experienced by our residents which have reflected negatively on the Department. We need to address those moments.