By CHELCEY ADAMI
3:10 AM EDT, May 7, 2013
CALEXICO – Tonight’s City Council meeting could bring big changes for the Calexico Police Department.
Both the potential appointment of a Calexico police chief and the proposed elimination of the Calexico Police Advisory Commission are on the regular City Council meeting’s agenda.
Each member of the council appointed a member of the police chief selection panel, which then interviewed five candidates. The panel is to provide a recommendation to council, which then makes the final decision with input from the city manager.
The panel was made up of the district attorney, a police chief, the Calexico police union president, a probation department administrator, and a former teacher’s union president.
Police Commission Chairman Mike Davies has publicly complained that he believes the panel should have included a police commissioner while Mayor Maritza Hurtado and Councilman John Moreno walked out of a closed session discussion over the police chief position in protest last week.
Mayor Pro Tem Bill Hodge said while he has received criticism regarding his decision to put Calexico Police Officers Association President Rudy Alarcon on the panel, he stands by it.
“I put Rudy Alarcon on the panel for two reasons: one he’s a police officer, and two, he’s a leader and represents the officers,” Hodge said. “For someone to say I’ve become a puppet of the union, they don’t know me. I’ve always been pro-union.”
He added that Alarcon was “only one among five of the panel so no one can make the assumption that he dominated the whole panel.”
The council has been further divided as controversy has surrounded conversations of the next police chief since Jim Neujahr left it earlier this year. Police chief candidate Pompeyo Tabarez has often been included in those conversations.
“When I heard hearsay months ago that (Councilman Joong) Kim and (Councilman Luis) Castro were already maneuvering to try to favor Pompeyo as a police chief, I told myself they have really put me in difficult position because even if Pompeyo is the greatest candidate it’s going to be difficult for me to readily say yes to him for that reason, because I don’t want people connecting me to those kind of shenanigans or politics,” Hodge said.
In all likelihood, Hodge will be the deciding vote on the matter.
“I try to look at the facts and evidence of his qualifications. My decision, however it’s revealed on Tuesday, is based on that, so I resent that rumor that Kim and Castro are trying to get their buddy in,” he continued.
Castro said Monday that he believes Tabarez “had the highest score,” that the hiring “process was a good process,” and that other candidates had underlying issues that prevented them from being viable candidates.
Politicians are allowing too much of the issue to become personal, Hodge added, and it applies to all sides.
“There’s some council people being naïve denying they don’t have biases. We all have biases,” he said.
Councilmen Castro and Kim requested the proposed elimination of the police commission, which is placed directly before the agenda item regarding police chief selection.
The purpose of the commission is “to provide a forum for the receipt of citizen complaints brought by individuals against the city Police Department or any of its officers, and to provide recommendations to the Police Department designed to improve Police Department relations with the community,” according to city ordinance code.
Castro said he believes the police commission isn’t effective, stating “I don’t think they’re doing anything for the needs of the community.”
“I only hear some gossip issues, like being involved in the politics and being involved in issues that the City Council can resolve, not them,” Castro continued.
As expected, Davies disagrees with the idea to eliminate the commission.
“It’s basically formed to represent the people, the go-between. There’s absolutely no justification for it. It’s been around 30-plus years,” he said. “Basic common sense will tell you why they’re doing it.”
Hodge said he agrees that the commission should not be eliminated.
“I think that it’s petty and it smacks of the same old politics that Calexico has had in the past that I personally want to try my very best, if possible, to change,” he said.
No backup information was provided on the agenda item regarding the police chief selection as of 7 p.m. Monday, despite posting that backup documents would be provided by Monday afternoon.
Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or email@example.com.
If you go
What Calexico City Council meeting
Where Calexico City Hall, 608 Heber Ave. in Calexico
When 6:30 p.m. today