April 7, 2022 10:46 a.m.
by David White, Ramon Batista
As City Manager and Police Chief, we would like to address recent local and regional media coverage of a report describing Santa Monica as unsafe. These messages are hard to listen to because we both love working, leading and living in this amazing community. Our primary goal is to work with our City Council, community and management team to improve the quality of life for our residents and businesses.
From the start, we want to make it clear that you are being heard. As Chief of Police and City Manager, we took the time to meet and talk to residents, business owners, faith community leaders, employees, owners and visitors. We have heard loud and clear your concerns about public safety in our city. We take each of these interactions seriously.
Together we work to provide the best possible service to our community. Below are recent actions taken by the city and the Santa Monica Police Department to keep Santa Monica safe.
- It probably won’t surprise many people that we are suffering from a labor shortage, as are employers across the country. This shortage is impacting operations and services across the city. The reality is that vacancy levels within the police department are at historic highs. It’s frustrating for members of our police department who work hard, day in and day out, to keep the community safe and respond to calls for service. To meet the demands placed on our staff and ensure a robust response to 9-1-1 service calls, the Chief of Police has reassigned employees from other major assignments to ensure our Patrol Operations Division has the resources to respond to 9-1-1 calls for service. Unfortunately, this will have a short-term cost, but it is an essential crime-fighting measure.
- The police department has piloted and deployed new technologies. Specifically, the Department has placed mobile surveillance cameras to target areas of the community where their experience and data indicate that this technology will help deter crime. The Department also piloted a Drone First Responder (DFR) program that was used by personnel as a force multiplier to respond to routine and high-risk calls. The UAS (drone) has had enormous success, often arriving on the scene just minutes after the emergency call and simultaneously establishing communication with the person calling 911.
- The city is partnering with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (DMH) to deploy a therapy van to respond to 9-1-1 service calls involving people experiencing a mental health crisis. Once complete, this service will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are working to make this resource available as soon as it can be staffed. Funding for this program means that a DMH team will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to respond to non-violent calls for service related to mental health. This resource expands our ability to meet the specific needs of people in mental health crisis in real time.
- Last year, the Santa Monica Fire Department launched an entirely new type of emergency resource, the Community Response Unit (CRU). The CRU strives to help bridge the gap between housing and other support services while keeping the resources of paramedics, firefighters and emergency rooms available for senior acute care services. The CRU looks like a typical ambulance staffed by two firefighters, but it has a distinct mission: to provide an alternative response to 9-1-1 calls to better meet the needs of Santa Monica’s vulnerable populations, including the homeless.
- The Santa Monica Police Department has a strong focus on recruiting. The police department is an amazing place to work and is made up of hardworking, dedicated and thoughtful professionals. Building on this foundation, our police department is devoting the resources necessary to implement an aggressive recruiting campaign to bring the best to Santa Monica.
In addition to these actions, and in close collaboration with the municipal council, we are looking at the next three to five years to determine where we need to be. We look forward to expanding and restoring services and implementing new ideas as the City continues to recover from the devastating financial impacts of COVID. As City Manager and Chief of Police, we look forward to engaging the conversation, listening and learning from your experiences so that we are well positioned to support and protect this community as we move forward.
chief of police