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Memos Leave Santa Ana Police, Fire Depts. Separate, Confused

January 22, 1986|ANDY ROSE | Times Staff Writer

It began on Friday with a memo titled "Rumor Control."

Santa Ana Police Chief Raymond C. Davis thought he was going to be named to a new post--head of both the Police and Fire departments--and he issued a memo to all Police Department supervisors informing them of the impending change.

It came to a sudden halt on Monday when he issued a second memo stating that the first memo was "hereby rescinded." All bets were off.

The episode was another strange twist in a determined effort by City Manager Robert C. Bobb to solve problems that city firefighters say led them to call for Fire Chief William Reimer's ouster two weeks ago.

Bobb has held a series of closed-door meetings with representatives of the Firemen's Benevolent Assn. since then. He met with the association members again Tuesday afternoon and then discussed the issue with the City Council in the evening.

Bobb said he would make recommendations to the City Council that would affect all departments, "not just the police and fire agencies." He said proposed changes weren't prompted by complaints about Reimer but were part of a two-year review of the entire structure of city government. Bobb said he would not comment further on the matter until he had time to talk to Reimer.

The first proposal called for Davis to be given authority over both departments. Davis' memo followed shortly after.

"It's a dead issue," Bobb said of the proposal, adding that there had been a miscommunication between him and the chief that led to the memos being issued. "That was my fault, not Ray's," he added.

Davis, who is out of town until Thursday, could not be reached for comment. Reimer, who hasn't returned repeated phone calls during the past two weeks, was ill Tuesday and also couldn't be reached for comment.

Other city officials declined to comment because of a clampdown on communication with the press. Under a city policy enunciated by Bobb at the direction of the City Council, no city employee may be quoted directly in the press.

Members of the fire association, who said they had also agreed not to comment on the nature of proposals to restructure the city agencies, did say that a new proposal had been made that they could support. One city official said the proposals were changing "hourly" Tuesday. The earlier plan to put Davis into the new position has been dropped, the firefighters said.

"We have tentatively agreed to a plan of action the city manager has put together," association spokesman Ray Comeau said. "We feel that we can probably support it."

Davis' first memo described the new position-to-be and stated that Reimer would be "reporting directly to me" while all day-to-day police operations would be taken over by Deputy Chief Gene Hansen. Hansen couldn't be reached Tuesday.

"Effective on a date to be established by the city manager," Davis wrote, "I will be assuming the position of deputy city manager/police chief, responsible for both the Police and Fire departments. . . . This organizational change is not, I repeat, is not, a move toward a public safety police and fire department where the two disciplines are integrated."

Three days later, the second memo arrived on the desks of all officers from the rank of sergeant to lieutenant. "The memo you received on Friday, January 17, 1986, entitled 'Rumor Control,' is hereby rescinded," it stated. "At that date and time, the City Manager's plans were specific as outlined in that memo. Over the weekend the City Manager made the decision not to implement that program because of other considerations."

Some sources said the proposal had been shelved because of opposition from the firefighters. Firemen's Benevolent Assn. attorney Seth Kelsey, who hasn't attended the meetings with Bobb, said he didn't think that the Davis plan was workable.

"It would be totally unacceptable," said Kelsey. "A change in the fire administration is quid pro quo for an improvement in morale and efficiency of the department."

Davis' second memo indicated that a "fear" that the first proposal would lead to a "public safety department" in which officers performed both police and firefighting duties appeared to have killed it.

"I wish to state again that I know of no such intention, but as a result of that fear and others, the planned organizational changes in that memo are not being placed into effect," Davis wrote.

Bobb, former city manager of Kalamazoo, Mich., merged police and fire departments in that city in 1982. Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief John Ross said the system has allowed the city to put more officers on the streets while trimming the ranks by 89 people.

"We're not opposed to consolidation as long as we're involved in the early stages of setting it up," said police association president Robert Brooks. He added that Hansen, the deputy chief, "is well-liked and respected by a vast majority of the officers."

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