Newly-appointed Santa Monica Police Chief Timothy Jackman addressed the Santa Monica City Council on the police department’s Community Oriented Policing program which has come under criticism, and the youth and gang violence issue in Santa Monica, at the council’s meeting Tuesday, February 13th.

The police department introduced Community Oriented Policing, also known as Neighborhood Centered Policing (NCP) in 2003. Under the new concept, the city was divided into four areas called Neighborhood Service Areas, Jackman said.

Through Neighborhood Centered Policing, patrol officers who normally would have been assigned to address community concerns directly were replaced by police lieutenants, called “neighborhood service area coordinators,” in the hope that, because of their rank in the police department, the lieutenants could “more efficiently and in a timely manner, reassign personnel, resources and equipment to address community concerns in each specific Neighborhood Service Area,” Jackman said.

“Although the lieutenants may have become more involved in attending community meetings, the day-to-day relationships and contacts between the community and its patrol officers, at times, have become distant,” said Jackman.

He said that patrol officers, although busy handling radio calls for service, also felt the gap in communication and responsibility that they once had when they were directly assigned to specific areas.

This has led to criticism of the program — from both the community and the police department itself.

As a result, the department is currently reassessing its Community Oriented Policing model, Jackman said.

“Our patrol officers want to be and need to be actively engaged within the community,” said Jackman. “Our community wants to not only see these men and women who patrol their neighborhoods, but they want to get to know them.

“This holds true for our officers, for we, too, want to get to know our community so that we can serve them better.”

Jackman said there is no better way to develop trust than developing a personal relationship.

“In order to accomplish this, we are currently evaluating our patrol plan and the distribution levels of all our personnel and resources,” Jackman said. “The goal of the realignment is that patrol officers will be assigned and accountable for specific geographical boundaries.”

Jackman anticipates that the realignment will be complete by July 1st.

YOUTH VIOLENCE — Jackman said that, over the past two years, the community has suffered because of numerous gang-related shootings, and the murders of 15-year-old Eddie Lopez and 22-year-old Miguel Martin.

“We are aware that when investigating these types of crimes involving gangs, many residents are fearful to come forward and provide information,” Jackman said. “As a result, more often than not, these crimes go unsolved.”

But Jackman said there has been an “unprecedented level” of cooperation in the community to “see justice done.”

Jackman also said that the level of collaboration between various law enforcement agencies is also “extraordinary.”

“It is said that the greatest impediment to criminal conduct is the certainty of capture,” Jackman said. “If everyone in the community works together to identify and bring to justice those who would come here to hurt people, we will end the violence that much sooner. “I think we have moved much closer to that goal in the last month.”

The workload for the police department has actually increased since six arrests were made February 8th and two before that, said Jackman.

The eight suspects arrested are said to be members of a West Los Angeles gang, and law enforcement officials allege that they are responsible for a string of crimes in Santa Monica. Two of the suspects are accused of murder.

Jackman announced at the meeting that, since these arrests were announced, the department has served an additional four search warrants and seized more evidence, including several guns.

Jackman said the arrests of these alleged gang members has confirmed his “high regard” for the Santa Monica Police Department.

“Accompanying me tonight in the audience are members of the police department that have worked diligently — in some cases around the clock — following up on every lead,” Jackman said. “Because of their hard work and dedication, these acts of violence did not go unsolved, and hopefully we are able to provide a sense of closure for the Lopez and Martin family and to our community.”

Jackman asked everyone to join him in “recognizing the fine work of these fine men and women,” who then received a standing ovation.

The police chief also recognized Mayor Richard Bloom and the City Council for providing resources that have helped make the arrests possible.

“Their strong leadership and commitment of support to the community and the police department has been unswerving,” Jackman said.

“Thank you, Chief Jackman,” said Bloom. “I want to say that on behalf of the entire council, and really, on behalf of the community. We have received an outpouring of e-mails and comments from all over the city expressing appreciation for not only actual arrests, but an understanding and appreciation for the hard work that the men and women of your department have put in to make these arrests possible.”

Councilman Ken Genser echoed Bloom’s comments, then commented on Community Oriented Policing.

“It’s always good to re-examine where you’re at and see if something can be improved and I want to encourage you in that effort,” Genser said of the reexamination of the community policing model. “I would just ask, although I have a sense you would do this any way, just please keep us informed So I just want to wish you good luck with that effort and encourage it and hope to hear more about it.”

Jackman replied, “We’ll keep you informed and we welcome your criticisms and comments as we move forward to see if we can make it [Community Oriented Policing] better.”