This is my last week at EPD. I felt it worthwhile to give you a few lasting impressions.
EPD, you are rock stars. We, the leaders of this city, have asked you to do an almost impossible job; yet daily you suit up, strap on and wade into the swamp of human tragedy to solve problems other cannot comprehend. When others run out of options, they call you. You have performed exceptionally and have done everything I have asked of you. Thank you-there is no success without you.
I want you to know I hear your groans, feel your pain and sense your distress. I get it that you are tired, worn out from dealing with the same problems, people and issues multiple times each day. You must understand, the community is tired too. They see, observe and deal with many of these same problems. They wade in the same swamp as you; you however, must in addition to dodging alligators contend with swimming in the strong current of turbulent times and a public frustrated with the lack of solutions to societal problems. Remember we cannot police without the consent, cooperation and support of the public we serve.
We understand that society has abdicated the most difficult problems to you: homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness. They have collectively dropped back and punted not knowing what else to do, because you are the only ones available 24 hours a day. You effectively deal with those who exceed the capability of all others. The mental health system must figure out a way to help the massive amount of people with serious psychological issues. They must find real solutions, rather than a dope and release policy. We recognize you are in fact the de facto mental system. All of us recognize jail is not the answer. The voters have repeatedly and powerfully said they do not favor incarceration or robust post release supervision.
I believe government cannot continue to incarcerate masses of people for minor offenses. This makes little sense and is an enormous expense to taxpayers. There is zero evidence that jailing the mentally ill and drug addicted works well. Yet there has to be order in society and adherence to the rule of law. I personally would rather reserve jail space for the violent, abusers, molesters, those who illegally possess weapons, gang members and burglars. Here in Humboldt, there is a massive amount of people addicted to methamphetamine, heroin and alcohol. It makes much more sense to root out the core of this problem through treatment. Theft cannot be controlled without getting at the base of addiction.
Eureka is a community worthy of protection. There are some people in Humboldt who would like to isolate the difficult people and problems to Eureka, almost viewing it as the throw-a-way zone. This isolationism must end and those responsible for these vast problems must step to the plate of community accountability. Transparency should extend far beyond the police.
Your support in the community is solid, in spite of the few chronic, anonymous bloggers who cower in anonymity and take untruthful, even slanderous pot shots at you personally. Listen to the real people. Those who stand in-line next to you at the store. Listen to those who gave out of their own pockets to send you to Dallas and San Diego for funerals of officers murdered in the line of duty. Listen to those who write letters and lobby elected officials for support. Listen to those who paid for the refurbished breakroom and gym. They care greatly about you personally.
Yes, we must listen intently to our critics. We need to make adjustments when we can perform more closely to the expectation of our community. Collectively and individually policing must speak out when the police fail to protect the rights of individuals or inappropriately use force. We should be open to change and less defensive about our profession. In turn police executives, elected officials must speak up for those who are willing to serve at a high personal cost and reward them with acceptable pay and immutable support during difficult times.
Finally, my cops, be safe. You have the right to go home healthy to your families at the end of each shift. Recognize the risk associated with this job, accept those risks and deal with them or move on to a different profession. This means being willing to take calculated risk and run into battle for our citizens. Someone has to and you answered the call, so do it as safely as possible. For answering the call, I want you to know I have been honored to serve with you. You are a stellar group of professionals.
I leave you in the capable hands of Interim Chief Watson, Captain Stephens and Manager Michelle Reyna-Sanchez.
Andy Mills, Chief of Police
This post was originally published on July 20, 2017 on Eureka Police Department’s blog.