It’s as if someone spun a big Wheel of No Confidence that landed on the City of Huntington Beach, where Police Chief Rob Handy became the latest victim of a no-confidence votes against police chiefs in Orange County by the cops they lead.
The Huntington Beach Police Officers’ Association released the results of a poll Wednesday that revealed 92 percent of the membership has no confidence in Handy, who is not to be confused with Saturday Night Live‘s old “Deep Thoughts” author.
Handy is to be confused with a possible U.S. Constitution violator, according to Dave Humphreys, president of the Huntington Beach Police Officers’ Association.
“A year ago, our membership completed a management survey of our Chief Rob Handy and three captain positions,” Humphreys explains in a union statement. “Chief Handy failed in eight of nine anchor categories. We purposely withheld the results of that survey in hopes of making the chief successful while we have worked tirelessly to meet with him; sadly that has proved unachievable and we can no longer remain silent on his lack of progress, solving problems and poor management. To repeat, we have been dialoguing with him in formal meetings for the past nine months. These meetings dealt with the genuine needs of our agency on the heels of years of neglect and with experienced officers leaving, and morale spiraling and getting worse.”
One issue rank-and-file officers have with Handy surrounds the implementation of a controversial policy to coerce DNA swabs from people for an Orange County District Attorney’s office (OCDA) data bank, according to Humphreys. “Police officers feared this was potentially illegal, violating the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” the union boss states. “On June 23, 2016, the chief said, ‘We will continue with this policy.’ The DA amended and clarified it to help the officers and those implementing it since Handy only wanted his way–the wrong way.”
That poor cop union assessment of Handy comes a week after Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada received a vote of no confidence from an overwhelming majority of his officers. “Despite the union vote, I continue to have confidence in the men and women of APD,” replied Quezada in a statement. “I can’t help but question whether no confidence votes against reform-minded police chiefs who have yet to hit retirement age are part of a new playbook some local police unions are using to attempt to strong arm cities and police agencies.”
For possible evidence to support his conspiracy theory, Quezada need only look nearby—no, not down toward Surf City but down the 5 Freeway in the direction of Santa Ana, where a vote of no confidence from the police union led to then-SAPD chief Carlos Rojas’ resignation earlier this year. Rojas, who like Quezada was the first Latino to lead his department, is now the Bay Area Rapid Transit System’s police chief and the plaintiff in a wrongful termination lawsuit against the City of Santa Ana.
Humphreys references the possibility of a concerted and simultaneous effort by Orange County police unions to oust their chiefs. “Our agency, along with at least two others in Orange County, is dealing with serious and troubling management issues at the highest levels,” says Humphreys, who noted his membership’s no-confidence vote was nearly unanimous.
This comes at a time when police chiefs are dropping like poisoned Medflies in Orange County, where it can be understandable that there would be multiple administrative changes given there are 34 cities, a sheriff’s department and various other law enforcement agencies operating. But this many?
Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, who is mired in corruption and incompetence allegations, announced in June she will retire rather than seek another term after her current one ends next year. You’ll recall she replaced corrupt “America’s Sheriff” (and federal prison parolee) Mike Carona.
Someone who once sought Hutchens’ job, former Anaheim Police deputy chief Craig Hunter, resigned as the OCDA’s chief investigator amid a “sexting” scandal. Officials did not confirm whether the allegations that Hunter had been sexting or sending explicit photos had anything to do with his departure.
Seal Beach Police Chief Joe Stilinovich resigned in March following a five-month investigation by the city into alleged (and equally murky) “serious misconduct.” At least he still had the support of the Seal Beach police union (and scores of townsfolk) when he was shown the door.
In January, Terry Kim became the first Korean American police chief in La Palma, where he replaced interim chief Michael McCrary. A retired police chief who as an executive management consultant had previously served as a fill-in chief for other cities, including Signal Hill and Los Alamitos, McCrary took over for Eric Nunez, who left La Palma to became the Los Alamitos police chief.
If McCrary is game, he may want to polish the old resume up for an interim gig in Huntington Beach, where—according to Humphreys anyway—Handy “continues to mismanage,” is “lowering … hiring standards,” creating “a hostile work environment,” has “contempt for the tried and true process of labor,” employs a “totalitarian style of management,” practices “bullying tactics and lack of communication” and has brought the city rises in “aggravated assaults, robbery, burglary, auto thefts and identity theft.”
“For the first time in the history of the Huntington Beach Police Department, we have never felt so compelled to go down this path and call for a chief to resign, step down or be removed from office,” states Humphreys. “The men and women of this department need to be supported, valued and treated fairly. We as employees have to follow procedures and starting today will resist being torn apart by a chief who is more interested in his image and perception of political correctness.”
Handy told the Orange County Register that while he was disappointed in the union vote, he will not let it change his vision for the department. “We’ll continue to maintain the integrity of this organization and strive to be a contemporary police department that is committed to community policing,” he reportedly said.
Going into the union vote, four of the five Huntington Beach City Council members who employ the chief of police signed a statement expressing their support for the job Handy is doing. Keep spinning those wheels, guys and gals in blue!
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.