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Voice: ECPD administration a quagmire, study finds

January 02, 2002

The report card is in for the El Centro Police Department. The grade, an "F."

This shouldn't come as a surprise given the three years of letters sent to this newspaper on behalf of the officers who've had to endure extreme hardship, micro-management, favoritism and retaliation by high-ranking department members.

These letters have cited the severe morale problem due to poor management and lack of leadership. Officers are frustrated and appealing directly to the citizens they serve. There was an overwhelming "no confidence" vote for Mr. Ray Loera's appointment as chief. The officers' association based their decision on his management practices, the complete lack of consistent accountability and the general vindictive nature of his administration and their policies.

There are some officers who've been protected by this administration and it should go without saying these few officers were not in favor of the "no confidence" vote and now hold nice positions within the department. Coincidence?

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These issues have caused deep divisions within the Police Department and good officers are filing grievances in record number, leaving the department for employment elsewhere, being forced into early retirement and some have faced being fired for simply not going with the department's unfair and unethical agenda.

The officers boycotted their own picnic once it was learned that management would be attending, they've reported misconduct to the grand jury, they've contacted the city manager and council.

Two years later someone in our city government wisely and finally decided to bring an unbiased and state-funded commission to evaluate the department, its operations and policies. The Police Officers' Standards and Training commission conducted an extensive evaluatio that proved the majority of the officers correct and the chief and his practices wrong.

Mr. Loera had been trying to dispel the "rumors" of massive discontent within the department by telling everyone, including the city manager and council, that only a handful of malcontents were causing all the ruckus. What was proven true was there are many serious shortcomings within the department's command structure. Allegations of retaliation, unfair and inconsistent disciplining and favoritism (to name a few) were sustained by the commission.

The commission found the department is "top heavy" and the position of captain, one lieutenant and one sergeant needed to be eliminated.

Many good officers have endured over the past three years. However, many good officers are gone. I must ask what the city manager or council plan on doing in light of this commission's findings?

Apparently the council decided to have Mr. Loera report to it every so often on the status and restructuring of the department. How cozy. Where was the council's understanding when it came to dealing with officer complaints over the past three years. What about the officers whose lives and health have been adversely affected by the actions of a reckless police chief? How many officers must the city lose before something is done? How many lawsuits need to be filed?

Why is the city taking such a risk in preserving one man's career while trashing so many good officers careers?

This city deserves a new and qualified police chief, someone who the officers and the public respects, someone who will act in the best interest of the city while meeting the needs of his troops, not someone who only considers his agenda and that of his cronies. I understand the city of Brawley has two such men. Maybe they can spare one!

JAMES MacGAFFY

El Centro

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