The City of Oceanside’s survey was originally released to the public in September as a means to help guide City Manager Deanna Lorson in selecting the next police chief and in developing future operational strategies for OPD.
Originally, Police Chief Frank McCoy planned to retire in October, but he decided to extend his retirement until December to help Lorson in the police chief search as well.
The search for McCoy’s replacement was paused until the survey results were released.
There were a total of 1,431 responses to the survey, of which 1,425 were in English and only six in Spanish. Approximately 85% of respondents identified as residents while almost 10% identified as business owners in Oceanside.
Based on the results, the survey recommends that the next police chief should focus on community outreach and building trust with community members. The survey included examples of how the department can do this, such as regular town hall sessions, attendance at homeowner association meetings, increased participation in community events, an OPD open house and quarterly meetings with community organizations.
The survey also identified a need to improve communication between OPD and the community potentially through a public information officer, who could help educate and update topics of interest among the public.
The survey asked six specific questions addressing leadership qualities and characteristics of a police chief, public safety problems within Oceanside, law enforcement activities and their levels of importance, developing and retaining positive relationships with the community, police reform and levels of satisfaction with OPD.
According to respondents, the top three leadership qualities that the next police chief should include personal integrity, good communication skills and “community leadership qualities.”
The survey’s respondents also identified homelessness, gang activity and burglaries/theft as the most significant public safety problems in Oceanside.
Additionally, the survey lists the use of force and de-escalation training, the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT), the Gang Task Force and Domestic Violence prevention as the most important law enforcement activities for OPD.
Approximately 62% of respondents answered they were “satisfied” with OPD while 7% were “dissatisfied.” The remaining 31% felt “neutral” about the police department.
A majority of respondents, approximately 53%, do not believe police reform is necessary for Oceanside.
According to the city, this means that the OPD is already on track, having already initiated reassessments of current practices and training procedures.
“OPD has been at the forefront of having previously implemented and supported less lethal and invasive tactics training among its officers,” said Human Resources Director Robert O’Brien in the conclusion portion of the survey results. “As in any profession, best practices evolve and OPD should remain vigilant in its efforts to routinely assess the effectiveness of its programs and ensure that its officers are effectively training and prepared to appropriately handle a variety of situations from the routine to the more dangerous.”
The San Diego Organizing Project (SDOP), a coalition of multiple congregations throughout the county promoting social justice, argues that the 47% of respondents who do agree that police reform is required in Oceanside is enough to merit change.
Oceanside’s St. Thomas More Catholic Church, St. John Missionary Baptist Church, St. Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church and the Oceanside Sanctuary Christian Church are all members of SDOP.
SDOP is also pushing for an external search for a police chief rather than selecting someone from within the department. The group believes that the “status quo” of the department will continue if the next chief comes from within the department.
SDOP took issue with the fact that the survey did not directly ask respondents if they want an external or internal search for the next police chief.
The group also challenged the survey’s lack of Spanish responses, which the group said is “greatly out of alignment with the percentage of monolingual Spanish speakers in the city,” and also the survey’s lack of demographic data regarding race and ethnicity.
According to SDOP spokesperson Pete Hasapopoulos and Judah Coker, leader of the Justice Works Team at Oceanside Sanctuary, “This places into question whether the survey succeeded in capturing a representative sample of residents, especially those most likely to have negative interactions with police.”
Using the platform SurveyMonkey, the survey was available online through the City of Oceanside’s website homepage. It was promoted via city news releases, the city’s newsletter and on social media.
Hardcopies of the survey were also distributed at the city’s library, police department and other “community resource centers,” though the survey isn’t specific about which centers.