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Santa Monica Police Chief Regrets Slow Response to Illegal Fireworks Display

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By Lookout News

July 9, 2013 -- When one Santa Monica resident called the police to complain about an illegal fireworks display in Palisades Park, he did not get the response he wanted.

Tom Hall said that on July 3, he called to report a fireworks display that lasted some 20 minutes. But that it took Santa Monica 45 minutes to respond.

“We use (sic) to have a 5 to 10 minute response time from our Police Department,” Hall wrote in an email to Council members and press.

“No more,” he said.

Hall wrote that he had intended to send his complaint to Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks but could not find her contact information.

However, in a classic case of a squeaky wheel getting the grease, Hall soon had his response.

“Unfortunately, your call for service was treated as though you were not observing the fireworks display,” Seabrooks wrote Hall.

She explained that due to the inundation of phone calls from people who hear fireworks, all types of which are illegal in the bayside city, that it is department policy to dispatch a car only when callers say they have seen the fireworks.

On the eve of the July 4 holiday, City officials sent out a reminder to Santa Monica residents that even “safe and sane” fireworks are not allowed in the city, even if legally purchased.

“Instead of sending a police unit out, the information was broadcast to our field personnel and no officer(s) were assigned when you initially called,” Seabrooks wrote.

She called the situation “regrettable.”

Nonetheless, Seabrooks said that the department is taking a proactive approach after Hall's complaint was received.

“In response to this circumstance, we have revisited our handling of calls for service of this type, strengthened our operational protocols, and communicated these protocols to our Communications (Dispatch) Operators to ensure all are clear as to current policy and expectation for active fireworks displays,” she wrote.

Though he said he had not spoken to Seabrooks directly about the email exchange, SMPD Spokesperson Sergeant Richard Lewis said that likely meant that dispatchers were reminded to make sure to establish whether the fireworks had been seen or only heard by callers.

He also said it might mean that if cars are available, they will respond if a caller only reports hearing fireworks.

Hall was more than satisfied.

“Thank you so much for your quick and thoughtful reply to my note,” he wrote in his reply to Seabrooks. “I'm also impressed that you went so far as to adjust policy on the fly.

“Thank you for that as well,” Hall wrote.

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