Huntington Beach Interim Police Chief Resigns Amid Infighting on Police Reform

BY JAMIE JOSEPH

As the election nears, police reform has become a central issue in the Huntington Beach City Council race, with some candidates planning to reallocate police funding and implement reforms if elected.

The issue has also split the current city council, and political infighting led Huntington Beach Interim Police Chief Kelly Rodriguez to resign on Oct. 22. Rodriguez was appointed as interim chief on Oct. 13 when the former chief, Robert Handy, announced his retirement.

“I have loved being part of this amazing Police Department and had been looking forward to serving as the Acting Chief. However, there is an unhealthy level of divisiveness right now in the department, and I have no desire to be thrust into the middle of political fights that are currently occurring,” Rodriguez said in a joint statement with City Manager Oliver Chi on Oct 22.

Chi told The Epoch Times, “I’ve asked her to stay, and told her I’d fight alongside her, but she doesn’t want to be part of the political fighting that’s happening.”

Councilmember Erik Peterson told The Epoch Times he’s disappointed by the announcement.

“I know for a fact there are councilmembers that are trying to push her out,” Peterson told The Epoch Times, mentioning Councilmember Kim Carr, who could not be reached for comment.

“I’m a little ticked off, I’m a little upset because … You can talk to some of the lieutenants and captains: she [Rodriguez] is the best law enforcement example out there. She’s just honest, fair, a leader. She’s just a great, great person,” Peterson said.

In an email to the Huntington Beach Police Department, Rodriguez said her last day will be Nov. 13.

“I was notified that some of the City Council members would prefer a different interim while they look for a permanent replacement. I was offered the separation incentive and chose to accept it,” Rodriguez said in the email.

Change.org petition to keep Rodriguez in her position began circulating shortly after the announcement was made.

Mailers

Rodriguez’s resignation comes just a week after a mailer was sent out by Cal Pacific, a Huntington Beach Political Action Committee (PAC), depicting city council candidates Oscar Rodiguez, Natalie Moser, and Dan Kalmick as radicals who would bring Portland-like chaos to Huntington Beach.

“The Huntington Beach Police Officers WARN Don’t Let Radical Politicians Turn Huntington Beach Into Portland,” the mailer said, referring to the arson, looting, and vandalism, that followed protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody.

Epoch Times Photo

The three candidates are endorsed by the Democratic Party of Orange County (DPOC), which has published on its website a resolution to support Black Lives Matter, including a statement that, “The Democratic Party of Orange County affirms its expectation for civilian oversight boards with subpoena and investigatory powers, overhauls in standards of use of force, the demilitarization of police agencies, the reevaluation of large allocations of city budgets for public safety …”

In addition, the DPOC “will follow up with endorsed candidates in the 2021 calendar year to ensure endorsed elected officials have made good faith attempts to pass the above priorities.”

The Epoch Times reached out to the three candidates but did not hear back by press deadline.

The recent mailer had the stamp of approval from the Police Management Association (PMA), who endorsed candidates Gracey Van Der Mark, Tito Ortiz, and Casey McKeon.

“We endorsed candidates that we felt best represented the character, selfless service, the values of men and women … and not based on any special interest,” PMA President David David Dereszynski told The Epoch Times.

Dereszynski said he’s worried the Democrat-endorsed candidates will push for taking “away resources that will have a direct impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of our employees on how we deal with issues in the community.”

The police department’s budget totals to about $80 million of the city’s $359 million total budget.

“The department has a history of being flexible and reallocating resources as the community needs, so we feel that there’s plenty of that oversight already built in there,” Dereszynski said. “We don’t need certain factions to come in and essentially disrupt the systems that have been in place.”

Pat Garcia leads Cal Pacific and serves on the planning commission alongside Kalmick. He told The Epoch Times, “He’s a really nice guy, you know, personally, but his politics are way far left.”

He said the mailer was “in response to all the negative ads we’ve seen for the last 10–15 years, because the opposition keeps running negative ads.”

Cal Pacific sent The Epoch Times a mailer from 2018 funded by the Huntington Beach Police Officers Association (POA), another local police union at odds in many ways with the PMA. PMA represents represents nine lieutenants and three captains, while POA represents 264 rank-and-file officers, along with other law enforcement staff.

The 2018 POA mailer called then-candidates Ron Sterud and Erik Peterson “Extremists” who “Are Threatening Our Economy And Safety.”

The POA has endorsed Kalmick, one of the targets of the PMA/Cal Pacific mailer, along with former mixed martial arts fighter, Tito Ortiz.

City Attorney Questioned

Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates was questioned by the Orange County Register after records showed his wife donated $1,000 to Cal Pacific. It was a question of ethics for someone in a non-partisan public office to make, albeit indirect, political contributions.

Gates told The Epoch Times that his wife’s donation was made weeks before the mailer was sent out and she had no knowledge how the money would be used. He supports her decision, which was intended to support the PMA.

“I do work for the police department. I represent them in all their cases, so I totally, fully support our Huntington Beach Police Department 1,000 percent, but I didn’t want to get involved, politically, in the council candidate race, and so I chose not to donate,” Gates told The Epoch Times.

“I have not endorsed any candidates and notably, I haven’t spoken out against any candidates, and there’s some of my detractors, including some of the people feeding the Orange County Register information, [that have] said that I’m part of this negative ad,” Gates said.

Gates said he will work with whomever gets elected and that he’s worked well with both Republicans and Democrats.

Republished with Permission The Epoch Times    SUBSCRIBE


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Anthony G Gleicher

Hey they recruit from IL and IN, so you know they are recruiting haters. What do I know, I’m a KY boy.

Davis Aldon

The PMA and the POA have been nothing short of deceitful with their campaign mailings. What makes it almost comical is they can’t even coordinate their deceit. Shame on the Captains and Lieutenants of the PMA for implying that they spoke for the POA (we’re looking at you Dave Dereszynski and Scott Winks). And shame on the whole department for endorsing Tito Ortiz, a former F Troop gang banger and meth addict with an extensive criminal record including charges of DUI and assault. Strange pick for law enforcement.