Council OKs massive police and jail reorg

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The City Council this week unanimously approved a plan to reorganize the Seal Beach Police Department and the city jail. No one will be laid off as a result of the reorganization. However, there will be a potential savings of $166,176, according to Police Chief Phil Gonshak’s staff report.

“This savings would not be realized all at one time, but would be realized as each phase of the implementation occurs,” Gonshak wrote.

During the Sept. 14 meeting, Gonshak told the council that if this reorganization doesn’t work in a year, he would come back with another model.

Gonshak also said the reorganization of the jail and the department were not mutually exclusive. He described the two reorganizations as inter-dependent.

District Three Councilman Mike Varipapa asked if the reorganization would put more staff on the street.

“The short answer is yes,” Gonshak said.

Highlights of the reorganization include:

• The jail will become a temporary holding facility, instead of a “detention center.” The city will be out of the pay-to-stay inmate business. (See related story, page 4.)

• The community service officers who now work the jail full time will only work at the jail when it is being used. They will perform other duties, including parking enforcement.

• The parking consultant expects that the increased personnel working parking enforcement will lead to increased revenue for both paid parking and parking fines.

• The SBPD will have a grant-funded police dog.

• McGaugh Elementary will get another crossing guard.

• An officer will be hired in advance of the 2021 retirement of another officer. Gonshak called this a temporary “over hire.”

• The two commanders will have their ranks changed to “captain.”

• A third motorcycle officer will be added to the department.

Jail changes

The Seal Beach jail would be changed from a place for inmates to serve time to a place for arrestees to be held until released or transferred to the county jail.

Gonshak told the council that most misdemeanor arrestees would be held until they were cited and released. Most intoxicated arrestees would be held until they were sober enough to be released. Most felony arrestees would be held until they could be transferred to the county jail.

“It is undeniable the Seal Beach Police Detention Center (SBPDC) has been a point of contention since its adoption in 2008,” wrote Gonshak.

Past SBPD Chiefs Jeff Kirkpatrick, Robert Luman, Joe Stilinovich all had to defend having a jail during their terms.

Although there have historically been efforts to have the jail basically break even, that has never been accomplished.

According to Gonshak, while having the detention center helped return officers to the street as quickly as possible, “a review of the finances over the past several years indicates a drastic and trending increase in expenditures, with an overall decrease in revenues (primarily caused by the COVID-19 virus).”

In a separate document on the reorganization of the detention center, Gonshak wrote, “Although the contract service with the US Marshals is bringing revenue, the liability risks outweigh the benefits.”

Instead of having residential inmates, according to Gonshak, arrestees would be held until they were cited or transferred to the Orange County Jail.

“Inmates that require detoxification would still be held until considered sober, then similarly released with a citation or transported to the Orange County Jail,” Gonshak wrote in the staff report to the council.

“This plan will not impact the wages, hours or terms of conditions of employment of existing employees,” Gonshak wrote.

Instead, five senior community service officers (non-sworn officers) will work at the jail when they are needed and also perform other duties.

Reclassifying the employees would start once the council approved the reorganization plan.

He expected reclassification of the employees to take about three weeks.

“Due to staffing shortages, there are currently no federal inmates, and due to COVID-19 restrictions, we have been unable to accept any new pay-to-stay or work furlough inmates in our dormitory population,” Gonshak wrote.

Part of the jail would be put to other uses, such as training or storage, according to Gonshak’s report.

The jail reorganization will require the cancellation of several contracts and notice to the state government, as well as reclassification of 12 employees.

Parking revenue expected to increase

Citation and paid parking revenues could increase to approximately $470,000, according to Julie Dixon of Dixon Resources Limited, the city’s parking consultant. Her slide presentation to the council indicated this was a 28% increase in parking revenue.

Dixon described the projected increase as conservative.

Following the presentation, District Two Councilman Thomas Moore said his concern was whether the revenue projection was accurate.

Finance Director/Treasurer Kelly Telford said she believed that figure was achievable.

According to Dixon, there are currently three full time community service officers and five part time police aides—one out because of an injury—assigned to parking enforcement.

According to Dixon, parking enforcement staffing is inconsistent and overnight parking enforcement is performed by SBPD when officers are available.

Under Gonshak’s reorganization plan, a maximum of seven parking enforcement employees would be available at one time.

Police dog

The department will also create a police canine program, using grant funds to finance the program.

In August, the City Council accepted a grant of $50,000 from the now disbanded Seal Beach Police Foundation for the canine program.

According to Gonshak’s reorganization plan, the startup cost for a police dog program would be “roughly” $50,000.

“From November 2017 – July 2020, the Seal Beach Police Department documented, through dispatch records, the use of a police canine for an approximate total of 50 incidents,” Gonshak wrote.

“This only includes the number of times the canine unit was requested, was on duty, and was able to respond but does not capture the possible instances where a canine would have been used, but was unavailable,” Gonshak wrote.

Crossing guard

“To ensure the safety at McGaugh Elementary School, one additional Crossing Guard would be added,” Gonshak wrote.

The SBPD currently has five part time crossing guards. According to Gonshak’s “Seal Beach Police Department Reorganization Plan,” staff, parents and the PTA at McGaugh have asked for another crossing guard. This crossing guard would be assigned to Marlin and Seal Beach Boulevard.

Rank and employee classification changes

Two police commanders will have their ranks changed to captain. Their salaries won’t change, according to Gonshak’s report.

The rank of lieutenant will be reinstated. “The proposal seeks to convert two (2) existing Police Sergeant positions to two (2) Police Lieutenant ranks at a minimal cost,” Gonshak wrote.

“An additional police motorcycle would be purchased and a patrol officer will be selected for a special assignment to join the Traffic Bureau. This is critical, as our most frequently noted concerns from the community derive from traffic related issues,” Gonshak wrote.

Among other changes, the court liaison position would be “reclassified to a newly established Police Civilian Investigator (PCI), a position that has been successfully integrated at several other agencies within Orange County,” Gonshak wrote.

“The PCI will retain many of the responsibilities of the Court Liaison position but would also be tasked with serving many of the same functions as Detectives, while at a significantly reduced cost,” Gonshak wrote.

The civilian investigator would also be available during the summer months, when the Community Oriented Policing  team is working beach patrol, according to Gonshak.