By Jim Tortolano
A lengthy – and public – struggle between Huntington Beach Police Chief Ron Handy and employee unions within the police department was finally settled on Tuesday night.
After two hours of public comments, the Huntington Beach City Council voted 6-1 – with Councilman William “Billy” O’Connell the lone dissenter – to give Handy a five-year extension on his contract to be Surf City’s top cop.
Of the 18 people who spoke on the contract extension in the public comments segment of the meeting, 14 were in favor and four against. Resident Kim Kramer expressed his “profound sadness” at the schism between the chief and the police officers, blaming it on a “personal vendetta” against Handy by POA leadership.
Dave Humphreys, president of the union, urged council members not to approve the five-year proposal, but instead support a one-year extension. ‘Why are we rushing?” he said. The union has argued that under Handy’s leadership, morale has plummeted and crime has risen. Supporters of the chief reply that although the numbers are up, crime in Huntington Beach is still relatively low.
Among council members, O’Connell cited increases in violent crime as a reason for making a change. “These statistics show that our city is not as safe as it used to be or it could be,” he said.
But the council majority had another outlook. Mayor Pro Tem Erik Petersen said, “Every single one of us would like more officers, but we’re in a tight spot.” He added, “When I was in the Marine Corps, I didn’t go, ‘oh, the general sucks.’ I didn’t expect to get a pat on the back every time I did something good.”
Mayor Mike Posey had the last word before the council voted. He stated that the crime increase was largely the result of new state laws that reduced the penalty for some offenses and decriminalized others. “The police officers is handcuffed,” he said, “both literally and figuratively.” He concluded with “Our police department is doing an awesome job and our chief is doing an awesome job.”
The updated “Employment Agreement” will extend Handy’s tenure through 2023. Also in the agreement is a change in the severance pay provision from three months to nine months. His salary will be $221,124.80 annually.
Categories: Huntington Beach