The Menifee police department officers, who are young in organization but long in experience, are quickly gaining community acceptance after their first 30 days on patrol.
The department has responded to a large number of calls, according to dispatch reports. While some calls are involved with serious crime, most are misdemeanors, homeless problems and array of thefts and suspicious circumstances.
Police Chief Patrick Walsh said he is extremely pleased with all of his officers’ performances in the field in the first four weeks of their deployment, even with his force still 12 officers short, all of which are in background checks and expected to come on board by September.
Walsh shared an example of one of his more experienced police officers’ contact with several local residents which shows community acceptance is growing.
“One of my officers came to me and said, ‘Chief, people are friendly here… they waved to us. I’m not used to that. I went to a domestic violence call the other day and both the wife and the husband apologized profusely for calling on us… I never had anybody thank me at a call like that. This is a good town,’” Walsh said. “In our first 30 days, our community has been phenomenal. They’re incredible.”
He recalled the nearly 23 years he served in the Portland Police Department.
“My friends up there are very discouraged and disappointed and are leaving the police department because it is so violent, awful and so full of hate,” Walsh said. “I try not to even talk to them because it’s the opposite here. Everyday someone comes and knocks on our front door because our lobby is closed… Every day.
“The other day a church came and in the parking lot prayed for us. There is a lot of praying. A lot of good thoughts. I’ve been telling the pastors, ‘We can’t eat another homemade cookie,” Walsh said smiling.
He said the community has been great.
“They stop and tell us – The officers out on the street saying ‘Thank you,’ or ‘We’re glad you’re here,” Walsh said.
Interviews on the street by the Valley News, Thursday, July 30, asking about local acceptance of the new police department in the first 30 days brought similar positive responses from some Menifee residents.
Menifee resident Jim Hughes stood in front of the Stater Bros. store at Newport and Menifee roads.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Hughes said.
He said he met one of the officers with another person and found him “very professional and glad we have our own police force.”
Resident Don Newton was shopping with his son Cruz.
“Me, I like the cops,” Newton said. “I have no problem with the police department. They’re doing a great job.”
Joyce Shilling, another Menifee resident, said of the new police department, “I like it.”
She added she was in favor of keeping the Measure DD one-cent sales tax that will be on the Nov. 3 ballot in a repeal effort.
“My neighbor has a sign in favor of Measure DD. If I could find one, I would put it in my yard,” she said.
Measure DD funding is the major source of funding for the new police department and other public safety projects.
Twenty-year Menifee resident Lisa La-Russo was strongly in favor of the new Menifee Police Department. She admitted earlier she was “a little skeptical; however, so far I have actually seen them more in and about then I have seen other officers (Riverside County Sheriff deputies).”
“Nothing is bad about the sheriff’s department because I know they are overwhelmed by the amount of call volume in the area with not a lot of units. It’s not their fault,” La-Russo said. “So far they have been pretty responsive to everything I’ve seen. They have quick responses.”
She recalled one incident when she called the Menifee police.
“Actually, I had a female officer come out. She was actually very nice, very special and she followed through with a little problem I had,” she said.
Resident Alisha Piatt sat with her family and friends having lunch on tables in front of Carnitas Express Mexican Restaurant at 26900 Newport Road in Menifee.
“I think it’s awesome,” Piatt said. “We’ve seen them in our neighborhood, their cars.”
Her friend Rachel Clark, a Quail Valley resident, said of the police department.
“I think it’s great,” Clark said. “I have never seen that many police cars. I see them everywhere, everywhere I drive. I feel safer.”
Walsh said the first week his officers actually investigated their first murder case.
“On the third day, a squad of police officers who never worked together handled their first murder, and they did a phenomenal job. You know, they relied on their training and tactics and slowed down and communicated and really did a nice job. I’m really proud of the work they are doing,” Walsh said.
He said these were unprecedented times everyone is having with the coronavirus pandemic especially for police officers, “and in particular in California, because we are shut down the second time and people are very uncomfortable.”
“There is a lot of anxiety out there,” Walsh said. “You know we scheduled ourselves to kind of ramp up in the afternoon and the evening because that is when people come home, and they start drinking or arguing then things happen. Quite frankly, that’s not been the case. We are starting to have domestic disputes at 9 or 10 o’clock in the morning, because people are in the house together.
Despite the increasing number of calls, Walsh said, “Morale has been super high, and we are still very, very excited to be here.
“They like each other (the officers). It’s just kind of a fun atmosphere to come in and find and meet all these new employees,” he said. “We are all new, right. And so it’s just been a joy to watch them work and see a lot of compassion. They really do good police work.”
In support, Walsh gave an example of some of the officers meeting with the homeless in the downtown Sun City Plaza area. One of the homeless, Walsh said, called him up to say how much he appreciated the officers who contacted him and because of that interaction he was checking into a rehabilitation center and trying to straighten his life out.
“That’s the kind of police officer we have hired here – compassionate but firm,” Walsh said.
He admitted that they are still building the new police department.
“There are a lot of pieces and we’re trying to put it all together,” he said. “Everything is new so we have to figure out how to use it. All our software. All of our technology and so the officers have to figure out how to police this area.”
He said only one of his officers has policed in the Menifee area before.
“So they are all figuring it out,” Walsh said. “Figuring out the systems and each other.”
Meanwhile, the police department at 29714 Haun Road in Menifee is closed. To enter, visitors must call at the front door or come by appointment. A temperature check is required once inside. Lobby hours are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on weekends. The non-emergency phone number is 951-677-4964. The crime tip hotline is 951-723-1600. Narcotics tip hotline and the traffic tip hotline 951-723-1590. Reach code enforcement by calling 951-246-6214. All emergencies call 911.
Tony Ault can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.