Council approves SPPD gang undercover narcotics investigator training

February 07, 2014
Santa Paula News

By Peggy Kelly 

Santa Paula Times 

The City Council unanimously approved spending more than $14,000 to send four police officers to a four-day conference in Las Vegas that will focus on gang and narcotics crimes at their February 3 meeting.

The February 10-13 training will be at the Orleans Hotel and Casino.

The Heartland Law Enforcement Training Institute of Missouri is holding the session that will include planning, investigation, interrogation, firearm investigations and undercover officer conduct and ethics. 

Police Chief Steve McLean’s staff report noted that reducing last year’s 21.1 percent overall increase in violent crime is the top priority for sending the officers to the gang undercover narcotics training program to be held in Las Vegas.

“The conference is a unique training opportunity that covers techniques and issues that are directly relevant to the police department,” noted McLean’s report.

According to the Heartland Law Enforcement Training brochure officers will also learn about money laundering, outlaw motorcycle gangs, stress management, drug traffickers and the spirit world, Somali gangs and “Khat” (a plant that is chewed for narcotic effect) and how to flip a gang member to become a police informer, among other subjects.

Although Councilman Bob Gonzales asked that the item be approved as soon as City Manager Jaime Fontes introduced it, several councilmen indicated they wanted discussion.

City Councilman Martin Hernandez said he was “fully supportive” of the training but he wanted to address the city securing future funds through grants.

“You can’t do the job without training,” and the Fillmore Police/Ventura County Sheriff’s Department recently garnered a $500,000 crime-fighting grant.

Hernandez suggested the city explore having a grant writer on retainer to track and apply for such funding opportunities.

Mayor Rick Cook, a retired SPPD Sgt., said he had questioned Fontes earlier about the training after he read the three training instructors are “from around the nation,” respectively hailing from Kansas City, Las Vegas and Illinois.

Cook asked, “Is this the only class,” or if such training is available in California.

“Whenever I make the decision to send officers out of state” McLean said it is only because closer, local training is not available.

Timing, he added, is also a consideration for such training as well as for the need.

With the rise in gang violence - as well as six homicides last year - and “Three ODs (overdose deaths) in the last three months,” McLean said he also wanted training that stressed narcotics as well and the Heartland Gang Undercover Narcotics Investigators Conference fits the bill. 

“To me it was more the specific class,” being offered as well the timeliness of the session that he contributed to the selection.

“This is kind of a unique opportunity,” said McLean.

The four officers to be trained are Det. Allen Macias, Officer Hector Ramirez, Officer William Pickett and Michael Levy, a Reserve Officer that holds the rank of sergeant.

McLean revived the SPPD Gang Unit last year and a Narcotics Unit will be formed soon. 

“Fighting gangs and narcotics is a number one priority,” and it is “imperative to have properly trained officers” stated McLean’s report.

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