One of our top sources is reporting that morale at the Santa Ana Police Department is now at an all-time low. We previously reported about the problems at the SAPD that have erupted since the ouster of former Chief of Police Paul Walters and his replacement by Carlos Rojas, a police officer who had no previous executive experience. Now apparently things have taken a turn for the worse.
Rojas oversees an agency that had an annual budget of $103.8 million, in 2013-14 – about half the city’s general fund. Of the department’s 579 staff, about 325 are sworn officers, according to the O.C. Register. Why the Santa Ana City Council didn’t conduct a national search to replace Walters – and hired a guy with no previous experience as a Police Chief, to oversee such a huge police department is a very good question.
The problems are popping up all over Santa Ana. One example my source shared with me was a bail bondsman who recently got in a fight with a parolee. The bondsman called 911, but he had to wait 90 minutes for a police response. He ended up having tase the parolee.
Rojas says that crime is lower than ever in Santa Ana, but as we reported previously this week there were 167 crimes committed in Santa Ana during Christmas week – including multiple shootings of young men, reportedly by gang members.
Even the nicer neighborhoods in Santa Ana are having a tough time. A neighbor in the Park Santiago Neighborhood posted this disturbing message this week, “My family lives on 19th street. My mother has lived here 40 years. 19th street is in peril. Since I’ve been back, there have been burglaries, a shooting, tagging, break ins at guarantee Chevrolet, drug deals at all hours and of course the speedsters. There are constantly people parked on the street. We even have a couple that comes almost nightly and parks for hours watching a video sometimes until the early morning hours. It’s become unbearable. I’ve called the police but it’s hard to get them here.”
Park Santiago is right up there with Floral Park when it comes to pricey homes – and many city employees live in the neighborhood including the Parks and Recreation Agency Director, Gerardo Mouet. If the SAPD is allowing Park Santiago to go to Hell in a hand-basket, what does that say about the rest of our city?
The problems at the SAPD even extend to the Santa Ana Police Foundation (SAPF), a nonprofit run by Orange resident Bill Cunningham that raises money for the department. Cunningham got the job, apparently, because he is Rojas’ neighbor!
The OC Weekly reported that “From 2011 to 2012, IRS documents show the SAPF collected $238,962 from individual donations and grants, distributing $78,527 in grants during the same period. Instead of going to the police department, the rest of the money went to overhead, including bank fees, event expenses, transportation costs and paying salaries.”
During the same time period, Cunningham was scheduled to earn $153,000, according to an employment contract obtained by the Weekly, although IRS documents claim he earned roughly $90,000.
Between 2011 and 2012, three members of the organization’s board voiced their concerns over the foundation’s finances, then left their seats. According to a Weekly source, three more left at the end of 2013. Also that year, the foundation experienced an early drop in donations, ending the first 10 months of the year in the negative, according to internal documents acquired by theWeekly. During the same time period, Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas—who happens to be Cunningham’s neighbor—reiterated to his department that the foundation was the only organization cleared to receive funds on behalf of the SAPD.
Rojas knows the SAPF is a train wreck but he has apparently done nothing to fix the mess he created by putting his neighbor in charge – even when the Police Explorers worked their tails off to raise $10K only to have Cunningham’s SAPF keep most of that – returning only $2,500 to the young men and women who are supposed to be tomorrow’s SAPD officers.
I am told by my source that the SAPD’s police officers are absolutely fed up at the cronyism and unprofessional behavior fostered by Rojas and that they are considering a vote of no confidence in Rojas.
What say the Council Members that created this disaster by firing Walters, under whose leadership the SAPD became one of the top police departments in the nation? Nothing. None of the Santa Ana Council Members are talking about the mess at the SAPD. The voters recently reelected three of them – Michele Martinez, David Benavides and Sal Tinajero. None of them are showing any leadership at all regarding crime in our city – and the downfall of what was once a great police department.
Firing Walters didn’t just screw up the SAPD. The City Council overpaid the new City Manager, David Cavazos, and he has since been very busy raising taxes and fees – and he even tried to get a bonus at the end of the year, as we previously reported.
Why is no one holding the Santa Ana City Council accountable for the mess they made by firing Walters and hiring Rojas and Cavazos? Walters certainly landed on his feet. He is now the Chief of Staff to new O.C. Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, as we reported a few weeks ago. He clearly is a quality executive. It is a shame he was tossed out of Santa Ana. The Police Department he ran so well may never recover.