San Luis Obispo police Chief Steve Gesell has launched a citizen roundtable group to improve the interaction between the community and the police department.
The 15-member group, comprised of residents, students and members of the business community, is the first of its kind in San Luis Obispo.
Gesell handpicked 10 of the members and will ask the roundtable group to select the remaining five.
“I let each prospective roundtable member know I was looking for objectivity and candor and was not looking for blind advocacy or a group of cheerleaders,” Gesell said. “If we’re doing things right, the advocacy should come naturally.”
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The group will not set policies but rather act as a conduit for community input on service levels and the department’s programs.
“A police department is only as good as its relationship with the community,” Gesell said. “It allows another avenue for perspectives and concerns to be presented. The end goal is very simple; provide the best possible service to our community and focus on public safety and quality of life issues.”
The goal is twofold: to increase the community’s understanding of department operations and to allow citizens additional input in creating new programs.
Thom O’Leary, lead pastor of Mountainbrook Community Church in San Luis Obispo, is chairing the group.
“I am very excited about it,” O’Leary said. “It is a great group of people who really represent the community well. Each member has a different background and experience but all of us are unified for the cause of making the San Luis Obispo community better.”
O’Leary, who has lived in San Luis Obispo for 29 years, said one topic he hopes to address is homelessness and creating effective and appropriate ways of addressing the issues associated with it.
Gesell said the roundtable group is the first of several initiatives he has planned to increase community interaction with the department. Others will include a neighborhood officer program and an expansion of the volunteer, citizen police academy and explorer programs.
“My hope is the increased communication will continue to assist us in making the most informed public safety decisions in the community’s interest,” Gesell said.
The nine other members of the roundtable are: Carl Dudley, senior vice president/business development at Mission Community Bank; Paul Ready, attorney, Farmer & Ready; Rushdi Cader, doctor, Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center; Clint Pearce, president, Madonna Enterprises; Keith Humphrey, vice president for student affairs, Cal Poly; Frank Kassak, Residents for Quality Neighborhoods; Tom Franciskovich, publisher, SLO Life Magazine; Mary Parker, homeless advocate and retired health care professional; Julie Mamo-Beckius, assistant principal, San Luis Obispo High School.
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