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According to community leaders, the Oceanside Police Department struggles with mistrust among many residents. File photo
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Police chief search paused for community survey

OCEANSIDE — When Police Chief Frank McCoy over the summer announced his plans to retire in October, the city immediately began its search for a replacement. Recently, the city has decided to put a hold on its search to first gather input from residents about what they want in a new police chief.

The City of Oceanside created a survey both in English and Spanish that asks residents questions about what they think are important qualities and priorities the next chief should have. The survey is available online and at various public counters throughout the city.

City Manager Deanna Lorson had recently indicated that the search would be limited to internal candidates, but some church pastors and residents want a nationwide search instead.

According to Pastor Kadri Webb of St. John Missionary Baptist Church and Rev. Jason Coker of the Oceanside Sanctuary, limiting the search to internal candidates would mean that only a few applicants could be considered.

This is problematic, they explain, during a time when current policing methods are being reexamined in an effort to eliminate racism and excessive use of force, as well as how to make the best use of police resources.

Lorson told The Coast News that when McCoy announced his retirement, she initially began looking at recent police chief recruitments in San Diego County and for professional guidance for hiring a new chief. She found that most cities in the region promoted chiefs internally and that usually the first step is to look internally for leadership potential.

Lorson noted that she saw experienced candidates within the department, none of whom are “content with the status quo, but recognize the need for the department to continue to evolve its policing practices and build strong community relationships.”

“It is my strong desire that we engage in a process of continuous improvement and it seemed that an internal search could result in a new Police Chief with the internal knowledge and established community connections to lead the department through a challenging process of self-examination and improvement,” Lorson said via email.

As Lorson started to work on an internal search, however, she realized community input was needed first to make sure her “observations are in alignment with the community.”

The survey will determine the city’s next steps in the chief recruitment process. Lorson explained that although none of the questions directly ask if the search should be internal or nationwide, the community’s survey answers will help her make that decision.

“I will be looking for a Chief that has demonstrated strong community relationship and a thorough understand of the City’s diversity and can build on OPD’s track record while also providing a fresh look to ensure that OPD is continually improving its practices and providing outstanding service to the community,” Lorson said.

According to Coker and Webb, the Oceanside Police Department struggles with mistrust among many residents.

Both St. John Missionary and the Oceanside Sanctuary partnered with the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego in 2018 to determine the community’s trust for local police.

“Oceanside’s residents of color consistently reported that they, or someone they knew, had negative encounters with police,” Webb and Coker wrote in the letter.

After the survey was announced, St. John, Oceanside Sanctuary and St. Thomas More Catholic Church gathered over 200 constituent emails for Lorson and City Council with three demands:

  1. Open the position to external applicants.
  2. Create online public workshops for residents to share their concerns, values and priorities for a new chief.
  3. Make the identity of all persons advising Lorson known before the selection of a new chief.

According to Rob Howard, who is running for mayor in the upcoming election, the city needs to prioritize building the public’s trust in its police department.

“When it comes to policing and public trust, you want continuous improvement,” Howard said. “Do not be satisfied with being better than another police jurisdiction — we’ve got to always want to better.”

Howard wants to see improvement in the relationship between community members, the police department’s leadership and the police union.

“If you are in a position of leadership, you should work harder on those relationships that are not good than the relationships that are good,” Howard said.

Howard, like the pastors, would also like to see an external search for a new police chief because it presents an opportunity to hire someone that has already worked through similar challenges that OPD currently faces. He also wants the city to listen carefully to its community members, and for residents to make their concerns heard.

5 comments

Donna McGinty September 23, 2020 at 4:05 pm

Me Too, if you had such a bad situation with the Oceanside Police, you have had every opportunity as an employee or citizen, to do something about your problems with the Police Department. I have lots of associates who are on the Police Force. I have had nothing but respectful assistance any time I have needed it in the 79 years living in this City. Issues in internal affairs department are just kept there for many, many good reasons, including those in your favor. I have not seen one time when the issues of abuse on or by any employee in this City has not been investigated and resolved swiftly over the years. These types of issues are certainly less common in the work place today than they used to be but are resolved with current law pretty quickly today. Internal Affairs is a department in most Corporate operations in 2020.

Me Too September 20, 2020 at 2:41 pm

If the Oceanside Police Department was transparent about complaints and misconduct, we would know who these disgruntled and unhappy people are, and we would know more about why these people are so upset. We might learn more about the specific Oceanside Police problems that need fixing. Until that day comes, when Police transparency is something we as a community can count on to solve problems together, we have to rely on people from Oceanside and surrounding communities, using their voices to express their concern and dissatisfaction. Whoever wrote the last two comments, must not have any knowledge whatsoever about the internal affairs department of the Oceanside Police Department, and clearly was never abused by any of them. As a woman that was abused, sexually abused, and retaliated against for years by the Oceanside Police, I can assure you that complete reform is long overdue.

Donna McGinty September 20, 2020 at 10:19 am

I agree that the City is in the best position it has ever been now. I believe there needs to be a Defend the Police not Defund the Police. There is NOT enough community support exhibited in Oceanside. Our Department, with all the riots in other Cities, is in need of a handshake from everyone who lives here! We have enjoyed a great since of CALM with Chief McCoy as our Chief. I am not in favor of a nation wide search. They did that before and just renewed Chief McCoy’s contract after a search. I understand, from an Officer, that our Chief will be leaving in December, after the election of a new Mayor and Council members in November. Get your candidates, including, hopefully, from within the Department, lined up and ready for the New group of Council and Mayor members to VOTE on the choice. Perhaps hold a Public meeting so we can ask the New Chief candidate about his wisdom about Oceanside.. A Chicago or Pittsburg, or Oregon candidate is not something I am interested in for Oceanside. Better be someone who has SUPPORTED Police Officers forever. Or, you might have to fire him or her. Where are the documented complaints from our Citizens who are said, by the 2 religious leaders, to be treated unfairly by ANY of our Officers. I just do not believe it!

Nadine Scott September 17, 2020 at 5:35 pm

I also question community disgruntlement with the police. Is it documented with complaints against the OPD? Where is the proof other than a handful of unhappy people. Crime is down. Community policing works. Let’s get someone who understands and knows O’side and will reflect the demographic please.

Jack September 17, 2020 at 3:36 pm

This is the third article I have read on the topic. Both Webb and Coker continue to state OPD has a contentious Relationship with its citizens. Who ? Who are these citizens ? How come we never hear from them. Who are they interviewing ?
I don’t feel we need to look outside the Oceanside police department. We have great candidates who Admittedly know where OPDs problems and how to address them. If we decide that two religious guys have the right to come in and tell all of Oceanside that we’re not giving everyone a chance because we are not looking outside, we have surrendered an opportunity to not only promote from within, but ever worse we have allowed a few to influence the desires of the many.
We should not cower to the thought of BLM and the defund to police crowd. Stay strong Oceanside and do not be swayed

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