May 19, 2011

Ask the Chief - Answers!

Answers to recent Ask the Chief questions. Would you like your questions answered? Drop us a line here.
These questions come in from Don H, a local city resident.

Dear Chief: What is the process in your police department to complain about the actions/inactions of one of your officers, one that will get attention without bias or made to disappear?

Dear Don:

Thank you for taking the time to write! This  question is very important because we take our commitment to the community, to serve and protect with respect, accountability and professionalism, very seriously. All comments, complaints or commendations made about our officers are reviewed by the department’s Administration. We attempt to make the process as simple and transparent as possible.

While there are different ways to lodge your concerns, such as by calling or speaking to the officer’s supervisor, I’ll address one of the easiest ways to do it. You can obtain a form directly from our website ( or by stopping by the Police Department or City Manager’s Office. The comments are reviewed by our Professional Standards Unit, Administration and also the Independent Police Auditor. The Independent Auditor works for the City Manager and reviews each of our complaints. The Auditor also provides an annual report on these complaints to the City Council Public Safety Subcommittee and ultimately the entire City Council. There are a number of checks and balances on officer conduct and we have a great deal of respect for this process.

Obviously, the best way to address this is to have an exceptionally well-trained and accountable department in the first place. As chief, it’s been a top priority of mine to ensure that we meet these goals and that we are as transparent as possible. We make crime report information readily available, and even have this blog so the community can get more insights into how we function. We’re confident that the review process by multiple independent entities, coupled with the overall philosophy of transparency in our agency, should help mitigate concerns in this area.

What can we as citizens do to help the police ticket and arrest cycling scofflaws, those who put themselves and others in danger on a consistent basis?

Most vehicle code offenses involving cyclists are categorized as infractions, which means the maximum penalty for the violation is a fine.  Unless the offense rises to the level of a misdemeanor crime, arrest and incarceration is not a legal option.  The majority of violations committed by cyclists result in the issuance of a citation by the police.  If you observe chronic vehicle code violations involving cyclists in a particular area of the City of Santa Cruz, you can easily report them online or by calling the Traffic division at (831) 420-5860.  Often we are not aware of these concerns unless we hear from residents - you know your neighborhood best and can help us allocate resources to locations that have a need.

The Traffic division uses this information to help schedule enforcement operations that make it safer for all of us. The online form allows you to report non-emergency traffic concerns at any time. As always, if you need an immediate police officer response please dial 911.

Chief Kevin Vogel