Thu. Sep 29th, 2022

SAPD Police Chief Carlos Rojas rides in a parade

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.

SAPD Chief Carlos Rojas

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.

Santa Ana Police Explorers

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.

By Editor

Art Pedroza started Orange County's first political blog, the Orange Juice, back in 2003. He now publishes the top civic blog in Orange County - New Santa Ana, plus other blogs including New Anaheim, New Fullerton and the Irvine News Blog, as well as the OC Politics Blog.

19 thoughts on “Has the sun set on the Santa Ana Police Department?”
  1. A lot of the blame goes to the city council for not hiring officers andnallowing the force to drop under 300. The SAPD used to be about 400 strong in the early 90’s. Now they are rushing to hire but they are in a hole and no one wants to come to santa ana. About 3 officers had left to Anaheim PD. The council asked the SAPD not to get any raises now for over 7 years because of the financial troubles of the city, but then they turned around and hired Cavazos for a fortune……Idiots……..

  2. Sapd is a joke!! I am a business owner ( my business is located less then 1000 ft from the police department 5th and Bristol) I have called them a couple of times. The first 3 individuals tried to rob our store at 5:45 pm I called them and they did not show up. I got a phone call on my cell at 9:30 pm from an officer asking me if the individuals were still at my store and why was not at my store ( our business hours are 10-7 pm) he then advised me to call in the morning again. Really!?
    Second time it took them 45 minutes to show up. I had to drive to the pd in order for them to go to my shop.

  3. Is this a surprise after they also let go of a Class 1 SAFD? There are no cost savings which is proven by the city budget on the city site. They instead made a deal with OCFA which supposedly brings the same service to the Santa Ana. It does not and who do you think responds when a police matter goes bad and a resident, loved one or officer needs medical attention? OCFA with increased response times, less experience, and many issues documented in the media. Public safety is a whole system and right now Santa Ana is suffering from one that is broken.

  4. You cite anecdotal incidents of crime – which could happen under any police chief’s and/or council’s watch. You don’t state any direct reason why morale is low at SAPD – you just say it is and that it is Rojas & council’s fault. Why should we believe you?

  5. Your source is full of s**t – he or she could at the very least tell you why the supposed low morale is the Chief’s or the council’s fault – if you or he don’t do that – then you are both full of crap and not worth paying attention to.

        1. Suddenly the point of your trolling is clear. Well Pulido has one vote and it was the City Council that fired Walters and set off the mess at the SAPD and at City Hall. So of you want to blame someone blame the Council.

          1. You have not explained how any of your perceived SAPD problems would not have occurred under Walters as chief. Your opinion is valueless.

          2. The fact is that the SAPD was a fine department under Walters. It has not taken Rojas long to destroy what Walters accomplished.

            That Walters is now running a Supervisor’s operation while Rojas is squirming on the hot seat speaks for itself.

      1. K.S. – Okay, so morale is low – what the is the cause?

        You miss PW – he could make things better for you? … yeah right …. sure ….

  6. So why doesn’t your beloved mayor lead the charge to correct those things? He could use it to make his hated council look bad – but he doesn’t do that. Why – because he is part of, – f not primarily – at least a major part of the perceive (by you) problems.

  7. Editor says: “The fact is that the SAPD was a fine department under Walters. It has not taken Rojas long to destroy what Walters accomplished.”

    That is opinion not backed up by anything – – less than worthless.

    “That Walters is now running a Supervisor’s operation while Rojas is squirming on the hot seat speaks for itself.”

    Same.

    1. Sigh. There really is nothing we could print that would change your mind.

      Perhaps when you have to call the police for help again you will find out the hard way how slow their response times have become.

  8. Growing up in SA, having neighbors and relatives in the Dept, now retired, and have not lived there for 30 years, it’s sad to read of the demise of the SAPD and SA in general…:(

  9. The Santa Ana police Dept, should not be so criticized because they are in Santa Ana, look at Costa Mesa P.D. you can have a number of problems speaking out about the Costa Mesa P.D. lack of oversight and all out vengeance for whistle blowers

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