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Voice: Johnson's attack not surprising

November 06, 2001

I was recently informed that certain members of the Brawley City Council have publicly stated they would not support the appointment of Acting Chief of Police Henry Graham to the position of police chief. It is my understanding that certain City Council members, led by Mayor Wayne Johnson, have blamed the Brawley police administration for the recent "mass exodus" of police officers from the department.

I was appalled, but not surprised, to hear such statements being made in this newspaper. I would expect nothing less from Mayor Johnson. Prior to leaving the Police Department, Mayor Johnson made it clear as to his intentions of ousting the police administration should he be elected to the City Council. It seemed then, and still today, that Mayor Johnson blames those atop the Brawley Police Department for his less-than-stellar career.

I was shocked to hear certain members of the City Council backed Mayor Johnson. Having worked with Wayne Johnson, I am fully aware of how vindictive he can be. I recall then Sgt. Johnson ordering a probationary officer to cite an ambulance for a mechanical violation. This ambulance happened to be parked at the hospital. Sgt. Johnson was obviously reacting to the fact that his son had recently severed employment with the same ambulance company. What kind of cop has a working ambulance cited for a small infraction? It's the same guy that is running your city, Brawley.

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The true reason I chose to leave the Police Department was the Brawley City Council refusing to listen to the police administration. Both Bob Kuhn and Henry Graham repeatedly approached the council and made suggestions as to what could be done to avoid losing more officers. The arrogance of the council in stating they could replace those who left was the determining factor as to why I left. The only reason I stayed as long as I did was the police administration and the professional way they handled the situation.

I worked alongside a group of well-trained and experienced officers who enjoyed their jobs. The City Council managed to destroy that enthusiasm, making my choice to leave inevitable. It was tough to leave friends and family behind.

The Brawley Police Department still has a group of good officers who chose to stay. I have been told the new batch of officers is progressing well. One must wonder what could have been. Most officers who left were Valley residents with years of experience. That can't be replaced, at least not right away. If Mayor Johnson and the council continue to undermine the police administration, those new officers will surely be working in cities that have the ability to offer more.

Mayor Johnson, I am sure the strife you are causing is pleasing you to no end. Unfortunately, those of us who worked with you know what's going on and can do little to stop it. I can't forget your famous statement you made justifying the fact that you went to your house or office every night you were supposed to be protecting the citizens of Brawley; "I get paid for what I know, not for what I do." It seems the citizens of Brawley are now paying for neither.

SAM HARBERT

Ventura

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