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Long Beach PBA calls for vote of “no confidence’ in city’s new police commissioner

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The president of the Long Beach PBA, in a stunning announcement at a city council meeting Tuesday night, said he will ask his members on Thursday to take a vote of “no confidence” in the new police commission, Ron Walsh.

PBA president Brian Wells denounced Walsh’s new geographic policing plan, saying “it is a complete redeployment of the most basic police services the public receives and it was not even hinted at in the official police reform plan.”

Walsh, a high-ranking veteran of the Nassau County Police Department who became Long Beach police commissioner in February, had said major changes would be in store for the 66-member department.

Among them, he said, would be a pilot program that calls for assigning officers to posts on a longer-term basis and seeing to it that they become more involved in the community they patrol.

It is unclear when the Long Beach PBA has ever considered a vote of no confidence in the police commissioner. The city and the PBA are in prolonged negotiations for a new contract.

Wells had said a week ago that such a plan was an “insult” to the department because it assumed officers were now not engaging with the community. Relations between the PBA and Walsh have been contentious from the beginning. Walsh has been seen as an outsider.

At the virtual council meeting, Wells said, Walsh’s plan “is a complete redeployment of the most basic police services the public receives, and it was not even hinted at in the official police reform plan. Its implementation will leave large areas of the city under policed and one neighborhood over-policed.

Walsh, in a brief phone call, said he would respond to Wells’ comments Wednesday morning.

City Manager Donna Gayden said she would sit down with Wells and discuss the issues he raised. She said, “I take very seriously a vote of no confidence.”

Wells added: “The PBA is not opposed to any area of the city receiving an increase in services, but it should not be at the expense of other areas and should be in addition to basic patrol coverage.

Commissioner Walsh's geographic policing program coupled with the flurry of recent directives and orders my members have received to enforce minor violations with “zero tolerance” and “intensive enforcement activity” has no support that I have heard from within the department contrary to his statements at the last meeting.”

Wells said Walsh “would have you believe that community policing is a new idea here in Long Beach. The fact is we are a part of this community. Many of my members were raised in Long Beach and still reside here with their families. Some have moved from other towns and chosen to make this city their home.

“Many were educated in the Long Beach schools and now send their children to those same schools. Some of our spouses teach in those schools.

We frequent local businesses and our friends and families own, or are employed by some of them. We attend local houses of worship and volunteer our time coaching a variety of sports.

Your demands for zero tolerance and increased enforcement will hurt our friends and neighbors who are still trying to cope with the physical, psychological, and economic effects of the COVID 19 pandemic,” Wells said.

Wells said he agreed with Walsh in one area, that Long Beach police seek leadership into the 21st century

“But not from him,” Wells said. He said PBA members “have quickly come to learn his idea of leadership. He has attempted to instill a culture of fear in our department by berating, yelling, cornering, micromanaging, and making other attempts to intimidate my members as if we are a bunch of 1st-week recruits in a police academy.”

Wells said Walsh “has lost the trust of my members and because of this, and in accordance with PBA by-laws “

He said he was calling a special meeting of the Long Beach PBA on Thursday to hold a vote of no confidence in his ability to lead the Long Beach Police Department.

In a phone interview Tuesday night, Wells said he expected the PBA members to support his position.