Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Keep The Police Chief

I went back into my files for this image of South Pasadena police chief Dan Watson driving a vintage squad car in the last 4th of July parade. It's a great example of our chief's personal involvement in our city. (I've even heard a rumor that he manned the beer tap at one of the arts festivals -- too bad I don't have a picture of that!) This gentleman doesn't just work for South Pasadena, he genuinely cares about South Pasadena. I had barely started the blog when I received a warm, welcoming email from Chief Watson. I was impressed. Here was a police chief who kept up with his city and reached out to the community in ways that went far beyond his official duties of law enforcement. When I mentioned the message to neighbors, nobody seemed surprised. In fact, everyone seemed to have a great personal story about Dan Watson. Gosh, I thought. Maybe I really did move to Mayberry.

For 8 years Chief Watson has led our police department with great success. We have a low crime rate for the Los Angeles area, and response time for any call to service is 3 minutes or less. There is a remarkably close-knit relationship between the community and the police department -- in fact, my husband and daughter joined Chief Watson for a meal at the annual 4th of July pancake breakfast.

You'll all understand why I was absolutely baffled when I learned that on November 5, the chief was informed by South Pasadena City Manager John Davidson that his employment contract would not be renewed. The South Pasadena Review reported last week that Davidson was the apparent messenger for the City Council who is looking for "a leadership change." The city will look for "a more qualified" candidate starting after the first of the year. (More qualified than a 3 decade LAPD veteran who has served South Pasadena well for 8 years?) According to news reports, the chief was reassured that there are "no concerns about his performance or the performance of any members of the department," and that he could certainly compete for his own job.

Are you mad yet? I know I am.

Is this how we thank one of South Pasadena's finest for years of dedication? Is this what passes for acceptable local hiring practice -- recruiting excellent people to serve our city and then, instead of rewarding their dedication and management skill, simply dumping them on a political whim? I don't pretend to know the ins and outs of local government but I know when I smell a rat. And something is stinking up the place.

At last week's City Council meeting, members of our community raised their voices in support of our chief. City Clerk Sally Kilby said, "You already have one quality police chief who goes above and beyond the call of duty." Chamber of Commerce president Scott Feldmann agreed, adding, "I'm a fan of the police chief, I think he's very community-oriented. I think he's fantastic, and so I hope the city can somehow reverse this decision." Local resident Carrie Adrian said, "Dan Watson is the best thing we have and we need to keep him." Here here.

The next City Council meeting is on January 6 at 7:30PM. I urge my South Pasadena readers to attend.

I also suggest calling City Hall to express your support of Dan Watson: (626)403-7232

You can also email the City Clerk:

Looking at the above photo again got me thinking ... we should be throwing a parade for Dan Watson to thank him for his excellent record, not inexplicably asking him to leave his job. It's not right. And it's certainly not right for South Pasadena.

Note: GOSP reader and commenter Mister Earl also blogged about this last week. You can read his post here.


Judy Williams said...

Are you serious???? I'm appalled.

Virginia said...

I would be appalled but after what's gone on in the city of Birmingham with our newly convicted mayor and our County Commission that's a bunch of ignorant thieves, I'm a little numb to the pettiness of politics. Sad but true. I hope you all get to keep your PC. He sounds like the kind of chief we'd all like to have in our own city. Give em hell LA! And keep us posted on the latest shenanigans of your illustrious City Council.

Yakpate said...

OMG... has the Chief of Police interfered in some way with big business moving into South Pas, destroying the unique quality of life you now enjoy in exchange for profits that will LEAVE South Pas, and... is there a kickback or other dirty money being offered to John Davidson to get rid of him?

I'll bet my Roth there is some kind of covert, GREEDY scheme behind this.

Yakpate said...

Here is the text of my email to the city link you provided:

Has City Manger John Davidson lost his mind? Why on earth would he want to replace Chief Dan Watson when he has maintained one of the most community-minded, safe, charming cities in California and, indeed, in the United States? We love our community AS IT IS and we appreciate Chief Watson for his leadership. I suspect that something underhanded is motivating this illogical and unfair political move, and you can bet that many South Pas residents share my concern.

Yakpate said...

Here is the response to my email:

"I have sent to the City Manager and the City Council. Thanks for taking the time to share your concerns.
Sally Kilby, City Clerk "

altadenahiker said...

You go. I know more than a few South Pasadeneans who are equally outraged. Chief Watson must be quite a guy.

Mister Earl said...

The City Manager has not lost his mind. He was directed to do this by the City Council. Some on the Council apparently have their own agendas, the exact nature of which is not fully apparent to the public. As Carrie Adrian said at the Council meeting, "it leads me to believe there are other reasons [than performance] and they're self-serving. I think the CIty Council should step back from micro-managing our city and let our city manager to manage and to stop this."

I know from personal experience that Dan Watson is helpful and reasonable - a mensch. There are things that happen in the city that have made me concerned about just how the city functions, but Dan Watson is not on of my concerns. He's an example that others in the city should follow.

I urge everyone who is concerned about what appears to be old-fashioned back-room politics, to communicate with the city clerk and to attend the Council meeting on January 6.

Perhaps those behind this thought that it would go unnoticed as they did it over the Holidays. Perhaps they will have a change of tune when they see the public outcry. Perhaps they will remember that they have to stand for election every two years, and a stunt like this can often set the ball rolling in ways they didn't anticipate.

I blogged about this last week and have mentioned this on Facebook.

Mister Earl said...

Just to be clear: Technically, the Chief was not asked to leave his job. He was told that his contract would not be renewed but that he could re-apply and compete with others for the post. This is tantamount to asking him to leave.

Anonymous said...

I've been a South Pas resident for almost thirty years. This is outrageous. You can bet I will give all parties involved a piece of my mind. Thank you for informing your readers about this shady business.

Petrea said...

It does sound sneaky. I wouldn't be surprised if Yak isn't onto something. (Look out! Walmart on its way!) Heaven forbid.

I don't know how many readers you've got, Laurie, but I'll bet you've got plenty. If this was supposed to be under the radar it's too late now.

Shanna said...

I've seen this type of underhanded behind the scenes stuff before. It has happened after someone really great has created something really great. Then someone comes in and takes advantage of it all - and, yes - wrecks the whole show.

It's wrong. And certainly no way to reward excellence.

wv: ratinged (tinged with a rat!)

Pasadena Adjacent said...

What I find disturbing is Mr Earl's observation that they put this through during the holidays when they thought no one would be watching. S-N-E-A-K-Y

Three decades with the L.A.P.D.? come on!

I'll forward your post to South Pasadena friends. I'm thinking I'd like to attend this meeting. After all I do have a South Pasadena Library card.

Yakpate said...

In Louisville, big business has lost numerous court battles with supporters of wetland habitats. However, even though there are injunctions against rolling in the bulldozers and leveling these habitats, they do it anyway... ON DERBY DAY AND MOTHERS' DAY, WHEN THEY KNOW THAT NO ONE WILL NOTICE! Once the habitats are bulldozed over, the injunctions don't matter, because the damage is done.

Same principle here.

Mr. Earl:I get your point about the city manager.

Laurie said...

Thanks for all of your comments and input, everyone. Mister E, I just realized that I didn't link to your blog post about this subject, and I intended to include it. I'm going to add it now since I want others to see what you have written.

I've gotten email today from concerned South Pas residents expressing similar reactions to those posted here. I think it is important that everyone let the city know your feelings about this situation. I hope that our voices will be heard.

Thanks again, everyone.

Odom said...

Open letter to the City Council:

For the past eight years the City of South Pasadena has experienced an unusually high percentage of turnover of almost every department head, often multiple times, including the City Manager. Consequently there is a dearth of institutional memory and the results are a loss of public employee morale, a lessening of the quality of services to the community, as well as numerous real and some costly problems due to lack of follow through on a range of issues, and confused (and broken) policy decisions.

For eight years one shining example to the contrary has been the excellent service and leadership of Police Chief Dan Watson. He stepped in to head up an organization that had endured several scandals and has overseen a complete reversal of that perception and reality - It is now a police force esteemed by our community. And the community let’s you elected officials know this at every appropriate opportunity, whether it has been the decision to keep the police as a part of our government rather than to contract the service out to the county sheriff, or the standing ovation Dan Watson received when city officials that attended were announced at the TOR Crunch Party last week.

Beyond establishing an exemplary work record, Dan and Kathy Watson also have given largely of their time and money in active community service work, including Rotary Club (past President), SPTOR, ACS Relay For Life, to name three. They are both fixtures at our community events. This man deserves the South Pasadena Review’s “Citizen of the Year Award”, for many jobs well done - not the humbling requirement of having to reapply for his job, as one among many.

Most of us can’t take the time to come and speak out at City Council meetings, and when we do, it’s usually to complain about something believed to be going wrong – not to attest to what’s going right. It was therefore an inspiration to those in the community who do follow government actions when our City Clerk, Sally Kilby and our City Treasurer, Vic Robinette got up to support Chief Watson. The following meeting eight more community activists, including former Mayor Harry Knapp and myself took the opportunity to do so. I expect that this will lead to a ground swell of support at the next meeting, until such time as this issue is resolved, and the Chief is accorded the respectful treatment that he is due.

This has been made necessary because of the public airing of the issues involving the Chief’s employment in the past two issues of our Newspaper of Record. After the shameful treatment that very recently played out in the pages of that same newspaper, leading to the dismissal of our City Manager – people who know and respect Chief Watson are understandably upset.

We expect that the City Manager would deal fairly and privately with his employees on any personnel matter, and he has a duty to investigate any allegation or complaint as well as the record of achievement in making up his mind. To my knowledge, City Manager John Davidson is doing just that. But because this process has been brought to public attention, and that the review of the Chief’s record extends past the expiration of his employment agreement, and that others are encouraged to apply, makes what should have been a private employment negotiation, an embarrassment.

Therefore I urge the City Manager to conclude his review with all deliberate speed, and if everything is found to the good, to quickly conclude negotiations with the Chief. Separately I urge the Council to get ahead of the rumor and innuendo mill with a resolution of support for Chief Watson and the great job you know him to be doing. Such a resolution would go a long way to reassure the town that our local government is professionally run, that it’s leadership respects long serving, capable managers, and

also to buoy the morale of the City’s employees with the knowledge that a job well done is a secure job.

Odom Stamps

Mister Earl said...

Mr. Stamps: Please contact me at

Laurie said...

Thank you very much, Mr. Stamps. I will be posting early next week about the latest developments, and I welcome you and others to comment.

Anonymous said...

The boys in blue always protect their brothers. I have been a police officer for 8 years, and I would always support my fellow officers unless they did something horrible or illegal. He has done something very shady or illegal that disgraces other officers. His own officers in SPPD don't even want him. The only reason he doesn't want to retire is because he will loose money. The SPPD is the lowest paid in the San Gabriel Valley for a reason. They solve no crimes like the murder that happened a 100 ft from the Police Station