New Menifee police Chief Pat Walsh is checking off a list of things needed to be done to meet the July 1 deadline of putting the city’s own police officers out on the streets.
Two captains, two new lieutenants and a training analyst have already been sworn to help put together what Walsh hopes will be the most effective, technologically and most transparent any community has ever had in southwest Riverside County.
“It’s an awesome responsibility to create a police department picking the right kind of police officers. I have been very thoughtful about picking the right kind of police officers, and I’ve been out in the community asking what they want. A survey goes out today (to Menifee residents) what are you looking for in our community in picking the right police officers and professional staff to fulfill our mission. Our mission is to make this one of the safest cities in America. And I am not just saying that. I think we are going to do that. Just that,” Walsh said in an interview with the Valley News Thursday, Feb. 13.
A number of goals have already been checked off Walsh’s list with the hiring of the command officers and the training analyst. His cadre are now helping interview the final 79 jobs still open in the department. Currently, 10 sergeants, which are now in final background checks, will come aboard in April, along with the 44 line police officers and support staff who will report May 11. New police cruisers have been ordered and are being equipped with the new city police emblems and will be ready for the field officers when the day comes to take over law enforcement from the contracted Riverside Sheriff.
“We’re really pleased with the recruitment effort and we’re not gonna have any problems having everybody here July 1,” Walsh said.
He said he was delighted to have two months after the last officer is hired to conduct all officer training sessions where law enforcement specialists will be coming in for that purpose. They will include the Riverside County district attorney, the top county public defender, an expert in defensive tactics to teach how to take a suspect down without injury, risk management personnel and many other experts in the law enforcement field.
Walsh said he is also planning to have a series of seminars with local businesses, church leaders, school district officials, elder care representatives and residents to learn what their needs are and how they can help the department keep the city safe – all before July. 1.
He has already gone out to members in the business community and enlisted their help with the installation of automatic license plate readers and surveillance cameras that officers can instantly access to review who was at crime scenes.
“City Manager Armando (Villa) is really into technology and so we are here working on what are the newest innovations we are able to employ here in the city with the business community,” Walsh said.
He delighted in plans to use technology to trap front door porch package stealers in the community that have been a problem and to have the means to help the elderly population in the city when they are in need.
The newest observation cameras have also been installed in the department’s property room, interrogation rooms and other offices and special locks on evidence storage bins that can’t be removed by anyone until needed by the court insuring the chain of evidence.
He praised the cooperation Menifee has had with its neighboring Murrieta Police Department in setting up a joint dispatch system.
“They have a great dispatch center that saves both of us money and our officers will be able to work together because the dispatchers will be able to work in either city and see where all the police cars are when they need help. We will run across the border and help them and vice versa,” Walsh said.
He said Menifee, Murrieta and Hemet police departments will also have a joint SWAT team that will go wherever they are needed in the three-city area.
That day, new blinds were being installed in the windows of the former chamber of commerce building where the city council once held their council meetings. The department, in taking over the building, had to have a major earthquake retrofit that makes it “100 times stronger that every other building so it doesn’t fall down in an earthquake,” Walsh said on a tour of the new station and grounds. The city will be using the retrofitted 11-year-old building for its Emergency Operations Center in case of a major emergency.
The public will still be able to use some of the building for meetings and other events, he said. The police headquarters has another modular building that will be used by the line officers for their briefings and report writing. Two more modulars will be arriving next month that will be used as locker rooms.
“Besides the building,” Wash said of the new department, “We get to create the culture. There is no ingrained way you do it. I have been pounding that drum from day one. Most everyone we hire has experience, so we don’t have to train them so they will come with their skill sets.”
He said the new hires he interviewed are excited about their new jobs.
Once the hiring in completed, Walsh plans to operate his department a little different from others with more civilian help, including a highly resourceful office manager who will oversee the property room records and other importantt office tasks that are normally handled by a ranked lieutenant. He said the civilian manager appointment will help smooth out officer promotion questions.
While the new department will have four sworn detectives with a sergeant in charge, Walsh said they will have some civilian investigators who will do more of the low-level work in the department, freeing the sworn detectives to work on major cases.
“It’s kind of a new concept,” the chief said.
He acknowledged there has been a lot of negativity toward the police in recent years and is seriously looking to overcome some of that problem in the community and within the department with his new ideas.
“You know, in the workplace, there’s always drama right. You know, there’s a lot of negativity going on in the police world in America, and you can get some who try to circle the wagons and become insulated, thinking that everybody is against you. And that’s just not the case. It is a small portion of society that is, you know, harping on the police and you know we’ve done some bad things in the country, but here, we’re not going to be that way. We will be doing the best job we can to try to make this one of the safest cities in America.”
The upcoming two-month training of the new department employees and officers will include another new idea where the officers, not in uniform, will spread out into the community from Mt. San Jacinto College to the local businesses in what the training officer is calling a police “scavenger hunt” that Walsh said will help familiarize them with the community and members of the community will get to meet them before they actually go onto the streets.
He said he has been working with the sheriff’s department on determining where the need and law enforcement problems are in the city, but until the Menifee police take over, the new officers will not be in uniform or on the job.
“We have an agreement with the sheriff on that so we don’t muddy the waters,” he said.
He said there will be an opportunity for the new Menifee officers to learn from the current sheriff’s deputies now patrolling the city during the two-month training period. He said the sheriff’s officers have been helpful to the new city police department with upcoming meetings with the Perris sheriff station officers and working with the Menifee captains on issues.
Walsh said looking at the creation of the city’s own police department is an awesome responsibility.
“It’s just that the sheriff, they’re hardworking, but you know we have grown so big, it’s time for our own police department, and if we’re going to do that, we’re going to create and exceptional police department and we’re ready to serve,” Walsh said.
Tony Ault can be reached by email at email@example.com.