Five More Years! HB stands with embattled Chief Handy against police union smear campaign.

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It looked like a sinister pattern, this past year – in three of the OC’s four biggest cities, the police unions rising up against their Chiefs.  In all three cases, Chiefs who either were (or purported to be) reformers, all ones who made their officers wear body cameras, all who had punished some misbehaving cops, and all known for their enlightened (“de facto sanctuary”) immigration policies – particularly troubling during that first year of Trump’s crackdowns.  And there was a connection between all three cases, as Victor Valladares discovered: the involvement of OC Cops’ consultant/lobbyist Peter Mitchell, egging on and advising the union mutinies.  But each of the three mutinies have now turned out a little differently:

  • SANTA ANA – first the police union succeeded in buying a council majority in the 2016 election (at $400,000), then forced the firing of both a city manager and Chief Carlos Rojas, a very progressive chief known for his insistence on community policing and discipline (for example, in the wake of that notorious dispensary raid.)  Here the union won, and the people lost.
  • ANAHEIM was a little more complex – some of the union’s complaints against Chief Raul Quezada were legitimate (dishonesty, favoritism), reformers did not put up much of a fight in his defense, and he was replaced by Deputy Chief (now Acting Chief) Julian Harvey, whom everybody seems to like.  So here the union also won, but it was all good.

So that’s two out of three the police unions won, and two out of three the people won. Not too bad.

Somehow I’ve been on the HBPOA’s mailing list over the whole campaign, and their attacks on Handy were relentless and dishonest.  Above you see a list of their complaints including “Sanctuary City,” on a sponsored Facebook ad.  Is Huntington Beach a “sanctuary city?”  That would be news to most people there, but red meat to HB racists and Trumpites. 

In fact, just like every city in the OC and probably almost all in California, the police don’t ask about immigration status and don’t report same to Federal authorities unless a serious crime has been committed – but that doesn’t make it an official Sanctuary City like Santa Ana. 

There are very good reasons for this enlightened policy of HB and most other towns;  did the HBPOA and their President Dave Humphries really want to change that, and co-operate with ICE raids under Trump?  Or was this just a dog-whistle to HB xenophobes, saying “There are too many Mexicans in this town, and it’s partly Chief Handy’s fault.”  Yeah, that’s it.

The union’s main complaint, besides having to wear body cameras and vague bitching about “negative energy and deep divisions,” was Handy’s emphasis on community policing rather than brute force and “boots on the ground” in the Oak View barrio as the union would prefer.

Hats off to the HB council – from liberal Hardy thru corporatists like Posey to conservatives like Peterson – for seeing through the union’s smears and appreciating a chief who keeps a city of that size safe, with a low ratio of cops per residents, and a relatively low police department budget of 34% of the general fund.  As beloved HB OG Gino Bruno told the Times, HB residents

“continue to be impressed by [Handy’s] leadership, accountability, transparency and his continuing efforts to move the department in a direction that embraces the future, with all of its technology and community-oriented policing.”

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.