Earle Robitaille, the city's tough-talking police chief, announced his plans to retire from the department next year after 16 years as top cop.
The 54-year-old police chief joined the department in 1963 as a patrolman and worked his way up to captain of detectives before he was named chief in 1969. Robitaille cited the building of a modern police station in 1974, the creation of a police helicopter squad and institution of a computer-aided dispatch system as highlights of his career.
But his critics have charged that under his leadership the department has often used excessive force and was overzealous in its efforts to rid the city of neighborhood massage parlors. "When pimps and whores scream that they are getting leaned on, we know we are doing a good job," Robitaille said Monday.
Last October, a local massage parlor owner and operator of a state-licensed massage school sued Robitaille and the city for $10 million, charging false arrest and defamation of character. The suit has not yet gone to trial.
Roland Clark said he was vacationing in Mexico with friends when police claimed he solicited an act of prostitution as a customer from a police informant who was working as a masseuse at the Spa of Hawaii, a massage parlor on Beach Boulevard and not the one Clark owns.
After Clark produced witnesses confirming his whereabouts on the night in question and the informant's story unraveled at a city hearing, the Police Department canceled the revocation of his business permit and wrote a letter to the district attorney's office asking that the charges against him be dismissed.
When asked about the Clark case Monday, Robitaille said, "Just because the Police Department dropped the charges, that was not proof that the department did anything wrong that night. . . . There just was not sufficient evidence."
Robitaille said that after his March 1, 1987, retirement, he plans to work as a part-time law enforcement consultant, investigate personal injury cases for some local attorneys and finish up a doctoral degree in public administration at USC.
Robitaille is the fourth Orange County police chief in recent months to announce his retirement plans. The others include Costa Mesa Chief Roger E. Neth, Newport Beach Chief Charles Gross and Chief Marvin K. Fortin of Fountain Valley.