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Part II: Talking with the Chief

By Olin Ericksen
Staff Writer

Last of two parts

January 8 -- One month into his job as Santa Monica’s new police chief, Tim Jackman sat down with The Lookout to discuss his philosophy of policing and the public safety issues facing Santa Monica.

In his office overlooking the Pacific and miles away from his rural New Hampshire home, Jackman discussed community relations, youth violence and the marijuana initiative.

How will you accomplish greater public outreach with the community?

For me, I am a representative of the public. Now I also face the conundrum of I've got an investigation to run. Some of (the investigations) are sensitive, and we have to keep them close at hand so we can go and solve the crime.

So that's always a conflict that any chief faces. Where do you weigh the balance? I will not jeopardize a criminal investigation. If you call and talk to me about an investigation, I won't talk so much about the investigation, but I will talk about the impact on the community it has, and that's where I think you'll see a difference.

When or if a crime is solved, then we will be completely open. There will be no need to have any secrecy at that point.

Miguel (Martin) was shot last week. The next day I was out in the community. I think that's important to let them know that we are fully engaged, and we're going to go out and use every resource we have available. I want to make sure the community knows we are out there for them.

How can police go out and interview witnesses, gather intelligence and be alert for crime in the Pico Neighborhood without feeling they’re alienating the neighborhood residents?

If you've talked to anyone who has been in this business for a long time, the best investigators, the best detectives are the ones that can go out and build relationships with everyone. Whether its five minutes after someone committed a crime and you go to interrogate them, or it's somebody you're trying to get some cooperation from in the community.

If I walk in there as a stranger, they have no idea who I am. It's very unlikely that anybody is going to be very cooperative with me, whether it's that crook or someone in the community. I think the best way to approach is just to be open.

This is an extremely successful police department. That being said, there are issues here where some people are not comfortable with the police, and that's going to take building those relationships and maintaining those relationships, which may be even more critical. That's where you get the information to solve a crime, that's when you get a trust factor that they're not going to get burned or fear a relationship.

How do you balance building those relationships and the same people showing their faces (in the Pico Neighborhood) and not having your officers become jaded from dealing with the tougher assignments.

When I was a young street cop, I would work nights, and you would very rarely meet the good people. What you run into almost always were the crooks.

If we can get the officers that are truly involved in community policing to know those neighbors, know who the critical neighbors to talk to are, even in the middle of the night, then we've gone a long way in establishing that trust. Not just in the community, but for the police officers themselves. And that eliminates some of that jaded rotting of the heart.

There's far more good people in the world than there are bad people. It’s just that in our business you deal more with the bad ones. I used to tell recruits, for every bad person you get, you've got a victim, and they're usually a good person, not always, but usually. So you try to find that balance.

Senator Sheila Kuehl hosted two conferences on gang violence in Santa Monica. What specific steps have police taken since, and what strategies do police hope to take action on in the future?

I don't have an answer for you yet on that one. I have not met with the Senator yet, we intend to meet.

From what I've heard, and this is mostly anecdotal, there is a lot of mistrust and certainly that's true in the minority community. That's something we've got to work on, and not just me, but a lot of members of this police department. The saying is, it takes a while to earn trust, a second to lose it, and forever to regain it.

You've taken a tour of the region, how do you see the regional gang problem?

Somewhat similar to what I see here in Santa Monica. Some of that is from the police, some of it is from gentrification.

I went to Venice, and we saw a place that got sold for a million dollars. They're going to scrap it down and build another million-dollar house on top of it. It's now a two-million dollar house and right in the heart of what was traditionally gang territory. In West LA, it's the same thing.

This is something that offends some people in Santa Monica, but it is a fact of life. As I'm walking through the Pico Neighborhood and see a house for sale, I can see there wasn't one there for less than $900,000.

So people that move into a million-dollar house in a million-dollar neighborhood, they have million-dollar expectations of what their neighborhood is going to be like.

And that's what's going to change the neighborhood as much as anything else. I can tell you that the net affect of that is going to be that the safety in the neighborhood is going to get better.

Speaking of Santa Monica's reputation, its residents passed a law making marijuana the lowest priority for law enforcement. Do you still plan to enforce it?

We will not sit here and plan operations and go after everyone that smokes marijuana in their living room. We don't have time for that. Obviously, we have a lot of other issues around here.

It does put on some reporting requirements, and we and the City Attorney came up with what we have to do, but I don't think that's going to change how we do law enforcement as professional police officers.

Obviously if you are talking about marijuana for sale or to kids, we take those kinds of things very seriously. But for individual use or possession, if we find it, we'll take action, the officer is actually required to, but other than that, it’s not going to be a big deal for us.

How do you think you would describe your leadership style?

There are some basic leadership styles. There's director, or someone who is essentially a dictator. There's collaboratives. Then there's someone who has meetings to decide things. And that's a little different from the collaborative approach.

I see myself as a balance of all. I think there are times when I'm the boss. I see times when I must be collaborative. And then there are times you just want to sit around and listen to the conversation, kind of like anarchy. Sometimes things will come out of this, and sometimes not.

That's the hardest style, I think, but it's also important because that's when they (the officers) feel like they've contributed. Collaborative can often be like that. In a paramilitary organization, typically it's been dictatorial, and that's not me. So, I don't have a particular style.

Some have said you are a finance specialist. Do you see any budget changes in the future?

The way I look at a budget is as a determination of your priorities. So that's the way I want to see things utilized.

No matter what you are, there are never enough resources to do everything you want. I look at the budget as where can I prioritize where we are going as an organization, and what does the community want.




"There's far more good people in the world than there are bad people. It’s just that in our business you deal more with the bad ones." Tim Jackman


"People that move into a million-dollar house in a million-dollar neighborhood, they have million-dollar expectations of what their neighborhood is going to be like."


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