A Glorious Day For A Birthday Party!
Temperatures in the mid-80s greeted visitors Sunday, December 15, 2013 the Costa Mesa Police Department, as part of the city-wide 60th Anniversary Celebration, celebrated its 60th Birthday with a community party at Police Headquarters on Fair Drive.
Several hundred visitors enjoyed the warm weather and the festivities for five hours in the middle of the day. I stayed for about half of that time and was very impressed with the preparations. Food and drink was available, a raffle for helicopter rides was held in exchange for toys for children and tours of the police facilities were conducted throughout the afternoon.
Police Chief Tom Gazsi kicked off the official program and introduced several former Chiefs of Police of the department who were in attendance. Before that part of the program, though, CMPD staffer Jeanette Chervony sang the National Anthem as the color guard presented the colors for the event.
Former Police Chief Roger Neth - the first officer hired and our second chief - gave us a fascinating history lesson about the CMPD. We learned that, over the years, the CMPD has been an innovative and highly-regarded law enforcement agency. Neth ticked off the many accomplishments - among them Community-Oriented Policing and the A.B.L.E. helicopter program, which was the benchmark after which all other municipal helicopter programs were modeled. It was great to see Chief Neth again, and to hear those inspirational stories.
His successor, former Chief Dave Snowden - who spent more than seventeen years in that role before moving to Beverly Hills a decade ago - stepped up and expanded on some of the stories Neth told us. He still considers himself part of the CMPD family and attends many events in our city when possible. He rejoiced in the time he spent as our Police Chief, and bemoaned the difficult times the CMPD now faces, with the loss of A.B.L.E. and the diminished staffing levels.
STAVELEY RETURNED, TOO
Former Interim Chief Steve Staveley, a man who has led many law enforcement agencies over a more than 40 year career, was also on the stage and spoke briefly. He was the interim Chief twice, filling in the gaps created by the departure of former Chiefs John Hensley and Chris Shawkey, neither of whom were in attendance yesterday. Staveley held things together during some very difficult times.
THE CURRENT STATUS
Chief Gazsi spoke of the current condition of the CMPD, expressing his gratitude to the men and women of the department for their tireless efforts and spoke of the fact that they are recruiting as fast as is possible and still maintain the high standards established during the tours of the previous chiefs. There are some members of the City Council who seem to think hiring police officers should be just like finding a gardener. Such is the condition of the elected leadership in our city these days.
Members of the SWAT team were present, along with many of their weapons. After I left they gave a demonstration of tactics for the crowd at that time.
There was a helicopter on display on the helipad - a former CMPD Hughes 500D model that we sold to the Hawthorne Police Department when A.B.L.E. upgraded to the Eurocopters. Former A.B.L.E. pilot Ryan Walker flew it here for the event and is shown chatting with retired CMPD Captain, current CMPD Chaplain and trustee of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, Dave Brooks.
COPS AND DONUTS
An amusing side note - the donut truck from Sidecar Donuts on East 17th Street was at the event providing free donuts to visitors (and officers, too.) Shown here is former councilman, current Costa Mesa Sanitary District Director and Chairman of the 60th Anniversary Celebration, Mike Scheafer, with retired legendary CMPD School Resource Officer, Jess Gilman.
CONTINUING THE TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE
The Costa Mesa Police Department has a proud, 60-year-old tradition of law enforcement innovation and excellence. As I spoke with several of the men and women who protect and serve us today I'm convinced that Chief Gazsi and his team will continue this tradition if provided the resources. I was very proud to be a Costa Mesan today.