Recently, there has been increased public dialogue around the topic of crime and public safety presence in downtown, the parks, and other areas of Santa Monica. The Santa Monica Police Officers Association (SMPOA) would like to bring clarity to misconceptions about these issues and correct the record on a series of falsehoods. It is unambiguous, and recent history has demonstrated that promulgating a false narrative undermines the faith and confidence of our community and makes all of us less safe.

The repeated notion that the Santa Monica Police Department does not deploy police officers from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. is completely false. The Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) deploys officers throughout our city on days and evenings, 24 hours a day, seven (7) days a week. The rhetoric that 9-1-1 calls go unanswered or that parts of our city are left unprotected is simply untrue. The public record of calls for service and our response to those calls dispels the falsity.

Moreover, the continued request for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) to provide police service in Santa Monica is neither the short-term or long-term answer. The SMPOA supports and agrees with our police chief that more police personnel are needed. However, we strongly oppose the suggestion of hiring LASD in Santa Monica.  The SMPD and LASD are two law enforcement organizations within LA County with a history of service; however, the culture of both organizations is different. The SMPD has a longstanding relationship of commitment within the city of Santa Monica, we hold dear, we value and understand our duty and service to our citizens and our business community. We understand you and we are here for you, unlike anyone else. Our philosophical view on how we police our city is based on an institutional knowledge of what our community expects from us, based on a decades-long partnership with them. While the thought of bringing another law enforcement agency to “assist” may serve to satisfy optics for some, it is not a healthy solution and does nothing to resolve systemic issues that contribute to criminal behavior.

The SMPD is leaning into the issue of public safety and moving forward by making full use of force multipliers in the form of technology and personnel enhancements that make crime fighting in our city more effective. Our unmanned aircraft systems and automated license plate reader systems, in conjunction with our fixed and mobile camera systems, allows us to more effectively to 9-1-1 calls for service and despite charges to the contrary, puts more eyes on our streets. This enhancement is modern, potent, and practical in solving crimes and bringing criminals to justice. The police department is committed to expanding and improving these programs to better serve the community while simultaneously increasing our police personnel.

The efficient use of our resources is something we can control. What we cannot control is what happens outside the scope of law enforcement. Our community and our officers consistently call for an increased response to crime in our city. However, our call and the call of the public have been dismissed. The policies of state and local elected leaders have made us less safe.  Voting is how we begin to make a difference in our community and the state writ large.

If the police department makes an arrest, we must all remember that the discretion to move the offense through the criminal justice system lies with prosecutors at the state, county, and local level. These entities have the discretion to decline prosecution, to lower the punishment and count minimal hours in jail as “time-served”. When criminals see no reason to choose rehabilitation or fail their recovery programs with no recourse, the offenders see no consequences. For their criminal behavior and are thus incentivized to continue to victimize our citizens through, theft, intimidation, or assault. If the prosecutorial system fails in their duty to hold those that break the law accountable, the rule of law in a democratic society, the social norms that bind us together are broken, and our laws become ultimately devoid of effective deterrence.

The notion that “low-level” offenses do not matter, engenders an environment for crimes in our community that escalates rapidly.

We urge our fellow community members to channel their frustrations with crime in our community more accurately toward the part of the system that is failing them and hold those officials accountable for policy decisions that promote recidivism.

We will never change our compassionate community values to illustrate that crime is not acceptable. We must be able to both educate and punish criminal offenders at all levels. We must elect policy makers that support efficient compassion in law enforcement. We all have choices to make this November, if feeling safe in our community is top priority for you, reserve your vote for those who are committed to the kind of public policy that keeps us all safe.

Finally, the SMPOA enthusiastically supports Chief Ramon Batista’s strong commitment to a community driven approach to public safety. In his brief tenure, Chief Batista has proven to be an accessible and deeply engaged community partner. We are proud to serve under a leader that embodies the principles of the men and women of the Santa Monica Police Department.

The 219 sworn public servants represented by the Santa Monica Police Officers Association take our commitment to ensure the wellbeing of our residents, business owners and employees, including our tourism population, very seriously. We stand with you we are committed to working with our fellow community members to champion the type of policies and policymakers that will keep our city safe. Please join us in the work of supporting our men and women in law enforcement. Have your voice heard, advocate and demand for a safe and clean City of Santa Monica.

Rob Schwenker, Santa Monica Police Officers Association