There are radical changes coming to the city of Long Beach's Police Department, and soon. Mark Dunston was sworn in as the city's new chief Monday afternoon. Just minutes later, the man who has a reputation as an innovator, held a news conference.
Among the first changes he proposes is to eliminate two divisions. Dunston says, "There will, in all likelihood after 60 days, no longer be a patrol division or a detective division." That is just one of the changes in what the new chief calls a concept of policing that will be somewhat different from anything else in the country. First and foremost, Dunston says more responsibility and authority will now be in the hands of patrol officers. The new chief calls it a flattening of the chain of command.
"There is absolutely no reason for somebody who is on the working end of the product, in our case, a patrol officer, on the street, there is no reason they can't have decision making authority."
"Also, the city will be sectioned with officers who will only work that section. Those officers will answer to a commander and Dunston wants those commanders to answer to the people in their community."
"Every month, we will have a monthly meeting open to the public and those commanders and those personnel will sit here and explain what they are doing to make life better in their community, and if not, why not."
The changes Dunston announced came as news to the people the changes will affect, the members of the Long Beach police. One 18 year veteran says she is confident change will be good. Captain Dee Schultz says, "It is new, and people who have been in this business for a while, they are a little unsure of change, but change is definitely what this police department needs."
As to the lawsuits hanging over the department Dunston told members of the news media those are issues for the courts, and not for him. Mark Dunston's title is interim chief, but at Monday's news conference he sounded like a man who will be here for a while. That's something Mayor Robert Bass hopes is the case. "Mark has indicated, and I don't think I am divulging anything confidential here, he is interested in staying much longer."