Simmons At 50 Has Had Enough Of Being Chino’s Police Chief

Chino Police Chief Wes Simmons, who recently eclipsed his 50th birthday, will retire after a 28-year career in law enforcement on August 10, slightly more than four years after he was sworn in to head the department.
Simmons’ departure comes nearly a decade before many had hoped he would leave as chief and roughly 12 years before he could be forced to retire on account of age. He has not publicly disclosed the reason he is leaving now, though those close to him have suggested that the increasingly violent nature of police work and the aggressive foreclosure of the rights of the common citizens he is sworn to protect have taken a toll on his frame of mind and psychological wellbeing.
At the same time, the generosity of California’s taxpayers in funding the lucrative pensions of public employees is serving as an incentive for Simmons to get out of what is for him a stressful assignment.
After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice from Cal State Fullerton in 1995, Simmons at the age of 22 was hired right off by the Chino Police Department as an officer in 1995. He promoted to the rank of corporal in 1998, became a sergeant in 2006, became a lieutenant in 2009, and captain in 2014.His department assignments involved him in the areas of criminal investigations despite his never actually holding the rank of detective, risk management, budgeting, public safety agency coordination, emergency management and crisis response. He was a founding member of the Chino Police SWAT (special weapons and tactics) team.
From 1999 to 2001, while working as a police officer, he attended the University of Phoenix extension in Ontario, achieving his master’s degree in organizational management.
In preparation for his promotion to captain in 2014, he attended and graduated from FBI National Academy Class 255. While in Virginia to attend the FBI training school in Quantico, Simmons took advantage of his presence in the Old Dominion, obtaining his graduate certificate in criminal justice education from the University of Virginia.
In 2019, with the retirement of Police Chief Karen Comstock, who has now moved on to become a member of the city council, then-City Manager Matt Ballantyne chose to elevate Simmons to police chief, and he officially took that post on August 1 of that year.
An element of Simmons’ personality is his religiosity. He is a board member at Crossroads Christian Church in Corona, where he lives, from January 2020 to January 2017. He was a board member for Crossroads Christian Schools from January 2007 to January 2012.
Police work, by its very nature, requires a degree of aggressiveness that is in conflict with the Christian principles of tolerance and peace. Chino and the Chino Police Department have not been immune to the violent, indeed lethal, application of force, including incidents in which that use of force has been subject to question.
Just prior to Simmons’ one-year anniversary as police chief, a man, Garry Hardy Jr., who was attempting to provide homicide investigators with the Chino Police Department evidence relating to a murder, was shot and killed on July 30, 2020 by the officer sent to rendezvous with him less than two blocks from the department’s headquarters.
The deceased had taken possession of a knife he believed had been used in a fatal stabbing/slashing. He made a 9-1-1 call to the department at 3:43 p.m., requesting to speak to a police officer. Concerned about bringing a weapon into the police department headquarters, he requested that officers meet with him at the intersection of Walnut Avenue and 10th Street, which is less than an eighth of a mile from the police department headquarters.
When Officer Matthew Hall arrived at the preset location, Hardy was there. When he emerged from his vehicle and approached Hall, the officer perceived the subject to be approaching him with a weapon, drew his service firearm and shot Hardy, fatally.
According to the department, Hardy was carrying the knife in his hand, openly on display and was asking, or telling, Hall to shoot him.
According to information provided by investigators after the fact, Hardy had a history of drug use, including that of methamphetamine, and his girlfriend stated he carried the knife he was shot with for protection. Those investigators made no mention of any claims by Hardy’s girlfriend relating to the knife having been used in a murder.
Based upon the information provided by investigators, Hall, a 34-year-old, seven-year veteran officer, reasonably believed that he was in imminent danger of being killed or greatly injured and that the immediate use of deadly force was necessary to defend against the danger Hardy represented, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office concluded. The district attorney’s office stated that that Hall shooting four shots, three of which hit Hardy, was no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.
In recent years, the ubiquity of video devices, cell phone video cameras, dash cams, internal car or cab cameras, security cameras, porch cameras and even eyeglass cameras have captured footage of police/citizen interactions throughout the country, including in Chino. Some of those have caught Chino’s police officers engaging in action many believe to be out of keeping with the mission of protecting the public and, in some cases, has endangered the public and trounced upon citizen rights. A video from about four months ago in which a Chino police officer is seen and heard threatening a driver and his passengers with both arrest and the use of deadly force when one of the passengers refused to produce his identification has gone viral around the world in recent weeks.
Simmons has repeatedly found himself in the position of having to be supportive of actions by his officers which do not bear up well under the wider lens of public and social scrutiny and the application of realistic and appropriate standards.
Nevertheless, it is understood, goes without saying and can be no other way than that as police chief Simmons is obliged to back his men in their comportment and performance of their jobs, even when they have been demonstrated to use overbearing assertions of their authority and gone to extraordinary lengths to maintain command presence. While officers have command presence – the ability to assert authority by voice intonation, by virtue of their position as police officers, the weaponry they carry, ability to network with other police officers and the societal backing they have from the civil government and the prosecutorial assistance of the district attorney’s office – as a tool in their panoply by which they can intimidate citizens into complying with their requests or instructions, Simmons recognizes that police functioning solely or largely through the use of fear and intimidation alone represents a dead-end in which the ultimate result will be the loss of the police’s moral authority altogether. Simmons, the Sentinel is told, wants to get away from that element of his existence.
More cerebral than physical, Simmons is said to be burned out on the machismo-driven ethos of police life.
Before becoming police chief, he authored an article, Big Data Does Not Have to Mean Big Brother or Be a Big Deal for Police Chief Magazine, a piece in which he dealt with law enforcement’s role in shuffling society into an Orwellian straitjacket.
“Society continues to become fully immersed in the digital information age, with more than 90 percent of people in the developed world having mobile-broadband subscriptions,” he wrote. “These people are creating 2.5 exabytes of data every day from things such as tweets, photos, purchase histories, blogs, and mobile devices. To put this into perspective, the data created every day are equivalent to 125,000 years of DVD-quality video. Additionally, Kevin Kelly predicts that by 2020, the global marketplace will be manufacturing 54 billion trackable sensors each year. These sensors are already being embedded in cars, used to monitor public and private spaces, and carried by people in the form of wearables. Wearable technologies track various aspects of a person’s activities, including location, movement, heart rate, and sleep. Wearables are currently a $700 million industry and experts predict the market will continue to grow quickly.”
Having obliquely raised the specter of the government commandeering that information to spy on the population, Simmons in the article sought to allay that concern by focusing on the equally real prospect that the underworld will exploit that information trove.
“Unfortunately, criminals are also users of these systems,” Simmons wrote, and he then made an attempt to lull the reader into accepting that good-intentioned and moral upholders of the law, the police, can be trusted to use that available information to perpetrate justice.
“The good news is data can become the digital fingerprint that law enforcement can use to identify criminals,” Simmons wrote. “These data include information that identifies [an] individual’s past criminal activity and plans to commit future crimes. All this information is uploaded, usually without a second thought, by the criminal, and then stored digitally in large interconnected databases located around the globe. This is called big data: data that is generally too big and moves too fast for the processing capacity of conventional databases.”
Simmons continued, “According to Rick Graham, retired chief of detectives from the Jacksonville, Florida, Sheriff’s Office, the problem is no longer a lack of actionable intelligence but an overwhelming surplus of data. It will be up to each individual law enforcement agency and its ability to access big data in real time to enable big data to be a force multiplier in crime suppression efforts. When accessing big data, departments must be aware of potential flaws and biases within the data. Personal privacy and police transparency are two critical issues that also must be addressed by law enforcement looking to utilize big data initiatives.”
Law enforcement agencies mining the information available about everyday people, some of whom are criminals, is “not a big deal,” Simmons insisted, as long as those agencies balance that tool with the use of other tools.
“The caution for law enforcement agencies is to ensure their officers do not utilize big data as the sole means to detain someone,” he wrote.
“Rather, officers should utilize big data as a means to supplement their reasonable suspicion through specific and articulable facts leading them to be more successful in identifying people who are committing criminal activity,” Simmons propounded. “This practice will help ensure officers are not targeting certain groups or violating people’s Fourth Amendment rights as had occurred under the stop-and-frisk strategies utilized by some departments.”
Simmons asserted, “Real-time access and analysis of big data allow law enforcement to more precisely and effectively solve crimes without intruding on the lives of innocent people,” something civil libertarians might quibble with, given that there exists points at which the innocent and the guilty are indistinguishable.
While Simmons for 28 years and probably nearly four years before that was devoted to the concept of being a law enforcement officer, it appears that time has passed.
At present, he is making $223,785.21 in salary, $61,152 in add-ons and perquisites, $84,168 in benefits and a $22,845.65 contribution toward his retirement fund for a total annual compensation of $391,950.86. Upon retiring, he will be provided with a $187,979.576 annual pension, which is 84 percent of his current salary.
-Mark Gutglueck

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