|The Lookout Letter to the editor|
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In the months preceding May 31st, 2020, the Santa Monica Police Officers Association (SMPOA) waited patiently for a thoughtful and thorough review of that day. Knowing that this was not an easy task to complete, our association is both thankful and appreciative of the investigative work completed by the OIR Group.
After a review of the report, the SMPOA does take issue with many of the facts and circumstances as described by the OIR Group. Considering the massive undertaking it was to dissect this critical incident, and the impossibility to fully capture what really happened, we acknowledge their limited ability to provide a comprehensive accounting of the event.
Instead of providing a line-by-line response to the report, the SMPOA humbly accepts the recommendations set forth with the belief that the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) will indeed become better as a whole as it learns from its mistakes.
We would be remiss to not acknowledge the mistakes made by SMPD’s executive staff on the days leading up to May 31st and on the day itself. Undoubtedly, Chief Cynthia Renaud’s leadership deficiencies became painfully clear. We do however echo the reports finding that in this regard “the rank-and-file personnel bear no fault.” Our association is confident the noted organizational deficiencies have and will be addressed.
On May 31st, line officers in the SMPD were left flat-footed and unprepared due to Chief Renaud’s decision not to place the department on tactical alert despite numerous indications that such a state of readiness was necessary. Tactical alert would have required overtime compensation and the activation of other resources necessitating additional budgetary commitments that Chief Renaud simply wasn’t willing to make based on the direction of the City Manager’s Office.
This lack of tactical alert status created a situation in which officers were playing catch-up all day, often self-deploying with little or no direction. Despite this, it’s important to note that the day ended with no significant physical injuries to officers or civilians, a testament to the actions under immense pressure of the line officers in the field.
Moreover, as the OIR report pointed out, Chief’s Renaud’s inexplicable decisions to deploy command staff into the field further exacerbated the leadership void and substantially increased confusion in an already chaotic situation.
Despite the organizational failures described in the report, the SMPOA has full confidence in SMPD’s current leadership team. The organization has learned and improved over the last year and will continue to do so as we await the forthcoming selection of our new Police Chief.
The members of the Santa Monica Police Association want to reassure our community that we are committed to providing quality public safety. It is our hope that our members will not be defined by the mistakes of that day, but instead by our longstanding commitment to quality public safety in collaboration with our community partners.
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