Interim Huntington Beach Police Chief Quits Amidst Department Infighting

Citing deep divisions in the Huntington Beach Police Department, interim Chief of Police Kelly Rodriguez announced her retirement Thursday, Oct. 22. Her last day will be Nov. 13.

“I have loved being part of this amazing police department and had been looking forward to serving as the acting chief,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

“However, there is an unhealthy level of divisiveness right now in the department, and I have no desire to be thrust into the middle of the political fights that are currently occurring.”

Rodriguez, who joined the department as a patrol officer in 1997, could not be reached for additional comment.

Her announcement came nine days after Police Chief Rob Handy announced that he would retire at the end of the month due to health concerns.

City Manager Oliver Chi said that before Handy opted to leave, Rodriguez had set her own retirement date for Oct. 31.

“I asked her to stay on a while longer as acting chief while we looked for a replacement,” Chi said. “She agreed to put off retirement to help out the city.”

But the city’s ever-turbulent politics intruded when a controversial attack ad portrayed three council candidates as radicals who would bring looting and lawlessness to Huntington Beach.

The mailer, disseminated to thousands of homes two weeks ago, bore a seal of approval from the Huntington Beach Police Management Association – a union representing a dozen lieutenants and captains.

Some at City Hall and in the police department assumed Rodriguez had participated in the flyer’s creation. However, Chi said, she had nothing to do with it.

“Kelly 100% advised the PMA against taking a position in the city council election,” Chi said.

The Huntington Beach Police Officers Association, with 264 rank-and-file employees, condemned the ad. The two unions have a history of internal feuding.

Rumors spread on social media that Chi had given Rodriguez a push out the door. Rodriguez dismissed that, saying “there is no truth whatsoever to the false claims.”

“In fact, he has been among my most ardent supporters,” Rodriguez said in her statement.

Realizing that her appointment had become fuel for the city’s political turmoil, Rodriguez returned to her original plan of an autumn departure.

“I don’t want to be part of the escalating conflict,” Rodriguez said in her statement. “At some point, we need to come together to find consensus and common ground.”

Mayor Lyn Semeta called Rodriguez “an incredible leader who has shepherded our officers through good times and bad.”

“I was extremely disappointed to hear that political maneuvering led to her retirement,” Semeta said. “However, I appreciate her decision to retire and not subject herself to political infighting that has nothing to do with her ability or qualifications.”

Councilwoman Kim Carr concurred: “It’s really unfortunate that it’s come to this. Everybody loves Kelly.”

Chi said the city has yet to determine who will serve as interim police chief.

Initially, Chi had aimed to find a replacement for Handy by early next year, but he said he’s decided to slow the recruitment process.

“We will seat three newly elected city council members in December,” Chi said. “Under the circumstances, it makes sense to include them in the decision about our next police chief so that we can all move forward together.”

From www.ocregister.com