By Mark Savalla
Just asking for a friend.
- If cannabis is so destructive why is a city promoting its sales?
- If the homeless are such a problem that half of the calls for service are created by homeless how can the addition of one officer who is going to be splitting their time between the homeless and the youth intervention programs going to be effective?
- Are more cannabis stores going to help the problem?
I monitored the Port Hueneme City Council meeting of May 17, 2021 and was shocked by their discussion and action regarding Business item 11 (Request for additional Police Officer staffing). (All statements are paraphrased unless in quotes)
The previous business and information were positive. Noise and air quality in the city is doing fine with no negative changes, the dredging is complete for this year however there is a history of the amount of sand being acquired has never reached its proposed and contracted amount, there are no homes impacted by the new flood plain data and street and alley maintenance is on schedule.
Then item 11 came up. The title seemed like a positive note in this chaotic world of “defund the police”. However, it did not prove to be so positive. The Chief of Police (COP), who supported the establishment of cannabis stores in Port Hueneme, stated rather proudly that per capita, “Port Hueneme is the cannabis capital of the world.” That got my attention.
Based on the COP’s information this request for a single officer, to be known as homeless liaison officer (HLO) can be supported because of the increased tax base generated by the present cannabis stores. He stated that the city will have 10 stores soon and expects to increase that number to 25 stores.
The COP emphasized that most calls for service in Port Hueneme were generated by the homeless problem in the city and that, although he did not have the stats available, he estimated that at least 50% of police calls for service related to homeless people. Why he did not have the stats available is beyond me. The COP explained that most of the homeless suffered from narcotics, alcohol and mental problems and needed direct help from specialized groups or agencies. He admitted that the system does not lean toward long-term incarceration of this group.
The COP explained there were certain regulatory requirements related to the cannabis businesses, such as undercover operations and monitoring of sales to minors etc.
The COP said the grant he applied for through Prop 54 is providing approximately $900,000 dollars to the city, $300,000 for the HLO and $600,000 to the Boys and Girls Clubs for youth diversion from drugs.
The HLO is supposed to manage the homeless problem in Port Hueneme and coordinate with the Boys and Girls club’s diversion programs. The grant is directed to help the “low level cannabis use offenders.”
- The city has a homeless problem;
- The homeless are enabled by alcohol and drugs and the lack of police availability;
- The state knows that juveniles are negatively impacted by cannabis;
- The city needs revenue, the city establishes numerous cannabis stores;
- The city is inundated by the homeless problem;
- The city acquires a grant from the state for one officer to split their responsibility between the homeless problem and low-level drug use;
- The city has a goal of 25 cannabis stores.
The city council voted to support item 11 and was concerned about how long the grant money, which only covers about half of the officer salary would be provided. There was no question that the entire problem seemed to be generated or supported by the establishment of cannabis sales in the city.
Just asking for a friend!
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.
Mark Savalla is a retired LAPD officer