DOWNEY — These are exciting and trying times for rookie Police Chief D. Clayton Mayes.
The chief is overseeing the largest police buildup in the history of Downey.
But Mayes is also trying to put down a potential mutiny. A recent police union survey indicates officer morale has dropped in the year he has been in charge. And there has been talk of a vote of no confidence.
Mayes shrugs off the criticism as that of a few disgruntled employees who are resisting his mission to enlarge and modernize the Police Department. There is little time for foot-dragging because crime is increasing in this city of 91,000, Mayes said.
Through last September, aggravated assaults in Downey were up nearly 30% over the same period last year, while car thefts increased 17.5%, according to police statistics. The city has also been the scene of some high-profile crimes of late, including a foiled robbery of a PACE store that left two officers wounded last October.
"I want to provide the most professional and highest level of police service to the citizens of Downey," said Mayes, who had been a Los Angeles Police Department captain for 10 years when he was hired by the Downey City Council last December.
Proponents describe Mayes as a dedicated disciplinarian who is giving more structure to the department. He is an energetic administrator who is known to work 12-hour days.
"He's done very well, especially when you consider he's bringing in a new style of management," said longtime Councilman Robert G. Cormack.
But detractors say Mayes is an arrogant administrator who is poisoning the department. He is the type of chief, for example, who is not shy about berating a captain in front of subordinates, according to responses in the union survey. Mayes has also drawn criticism for promoting the friends of a former councilman who voted to appoint him chief.
"The man is a 24-hour politician," said Sgt. Mike Hadley, president of the Downey Police Officers Assn. "He comes across as being insincere."
The chief has enjoyed some successes during his brief tenure.
He has expanded the department's anti-gang unit from two to four field officers to keep Downey's relatively minor gang problem in check. He has overhauled the department's communications center at a cost of $360,000. He has tightened security and accountability in the department's evidence room, where confiscated drugs and other items are kept until trial.
Mayes has reactivated a police officer "agent program," in which outstanding officers receive 5.5% bonus pay annually. And he issued an order last week enabling his officers to carry city-issued, 9-millimeter pistols. The pistols are favored by some policemen because the weapons hold about twice as many bullets as the automatics and revolvers that were standard in Downey.
But he also has suffered highly visible setbacks.
Mayes has been reprimanded by City Manager Gerald M. Caton for using police officers and vans last summer to transport local high school students. The students were classmates of Mayes' son, Brian.
Then last October, Caton and the City Council turned their backs on Mayes' proposal for a police helicopter. Just two weeks later, Caton came back with a $2.1-million proposal to add 27 officers to the city's 116-officer force. The City Council unanimously approved the buildup, and 27 officers are being recruited.
Mayes ended up playing a supporting role in what was the council's most important law enforcement decision in years.
The chief said he doesn't take offense at rejection of his helicopter proposal. And he says he always advocated hiring more officers as proposed by Caton. But Mayes said he wanted to employ a helicopter and then use remaining funds for officers.
"I wanted the helicopter and additional officers," Mayes said. "I still believe in the helicopter."
Dewey Clayton Mayes, 48, realized a dream when he was appointed police chief last December. He applied for the position in 1987 but was passed over for now-retired Police Chief Pete Stone, who had been with the Downey Police Department for 29 years before becoming chief.
The Mayes family is well known in Downey, where they have lived for 20 years. Mayes, who holds a master's degree in public administration from Pepperdine University, was a member of the Board of Education of the Downey Unified School District for 13 years and has been active in other civic affairs. His wife, Carolyn, is a kindergarten teacher at a local school. They have two sons.
The chief is an unimposing, talkative man who enjoys operating in his hometown. A local clothing store owner and his wife stopped by Mayes' table during a recent lunch at a local restaurant. It was the perfect opportunity for Mayes to offer one of his favorite compliments: "Is this your daughter?" he asked the store owner.
But it is Mayes' community standing that made his appointment controversial from the start.