December 1, 2010

Chief Kevin Vogel Editorial - Published in Santa Cruz Sentinel

Status quo is not an option. Throughout the community, at forums, at the grocery store and in my neighborhood I keep hearing the same refrain: "We must change the way we approach crime in our community -- status quo is not an option."
As a forward-thinking organization dedicated to community service, we understand that progress is never made by keeping things the way they are. Each and every officer in our department hears this need, and it is my intention as interim chief to implement it.

Over the last few years we've witnessed an intolerable growth in homicides and gang-motivated crime. Truly, there is a sense of unease -- a question of personal safety and a concern for the future of our community. Neighbors have told me stories of not letting their kids travel downtown or expressed concern about our department's ability to manage the criminal elements plaguing our beautiful city.

I am keenly aware of these concerns and I am offering a commitment to change. I intend to make myself more accessible, more visible and more accountable to our community. I will empower the officers in our agency to take calculated risks -- fostering an environment where officers are encouraged and rewarded for innovation and collaboration -- where officers will try, innovate and change without fear of failure. We will commit to take risks and continue to learn from our mistakes and experiences.

Over the coming months I intend to initiate  what I see as necessary changes to our department:

I will create a chief's advisory committee, the first in our history. This committee, with representatives from neighborhoods, businesses, faith, prevention and other facets of our community, will work to foster partnerships with voices rarely heard in government.
We will re-create our community services unit. As a nationally recognized and community-oriented policing agency, it is essential we dedicate resources to community outreach.
I will establish a community volunteer program. We will leverage our community's talent by integrating the knowledge, skills and commitment to service of our city.
Our agency will reallocate resources with a stronger focus on gang suppression, the beach area, downtown, neighborhoods and parks.
We will tap all available local law enforcement resources. Our recent partnerships with federal agencies are a great start, but it is essential we expand our relationships with local law enforcement agencies to tackle crime from a regionalized approach.
I will increase the number of reserve police officers within our agency to bolster our public safety resources.
I will undertake a top-to-bottom review of our organization, establishing performance measures for our agency with clear expectations for our officers. I will look for efficiencies, redundancies and areas to advance with an improved focus on customer service.

After 23 years of service at the Santa Cruz Police Department, I know the men and women of this department have an unyielding commitment to the betterment of our city.

Our department exists within the community that we all choose to create -- socially, politically and economically. Our agency would like to challenge the community to help us create a community where our actions, our policies and our voices are united toward a goal of public safety and community improvement.
We have consistently stated that the true measurement of our department is the impact we leave for those who come after us. We will always strive to be highly accountable and accessible while focusing on what we believe our agency does best -- community-oriented policing.

Lincoln noted that he had no greater ambition than that of being truly esteemed by his community, by rendering himself worthy of their esteem. It does not seem like an unreasonable goal for our agency to be worthy of this community's esteem. Together, I am confident we can show that we are.