Steve McLean, captain of the since since early 2010, has announced he will retire. During his tenure, Department crime statistics show that 2011 was a big improvement over 2010: In total,
But there was a learning curve along the way, and some things McLean believes he could have, should have handled differently. We asked him about his tenure.
Q: What do you consider your greatest contribution to Altadena?
A: I’m proud that the crime rate has come down. I’m proud of the partnerships and friendships that helped realize this success, including the enhanced volunteer program. Community volunteers have played a significant role.
And I’m proud that I put my heart, soul, and mind into the job.
Q: What factors contributed to the drop in crime, particularly property crime?
A: It’s a philosophy--believing that public safety is not a policing issue, it’s a community issue. Also, it’s a matter of being proactive rather than reactive, and getting the community to partner with us and earning their trust. I've made myself available seven days a week--I've made sure people have the opportunity to know me. And I have Deputies who respect me and follow my lead.
Q: What role has community involvement played in reducing local crime?
A: In terms of overall strategy, I believe community partnership is more critical and effective than putting 100 cops on street.
Q: I’m sure you did a lot of prep work before coming to Altadena, but did anything surprise you?
A: I can’t say anything was really unexpected, but I did make some mistakes. There are things, in retrospect, I would have done differently.
When I first came here, the crime rate was out of control, and I brought in a whole lot of cops. For a station that normally has three cars, it gave the appearance that something bad was happening.
I should have met and talked with stakeholders first, let people know what the problems were beforehand, and let them know how we planned to address the problems.
So we worked on building community partnerships, one person at a time, one block at a time.
Q: How would you describe the current relationship between the Sheriff’s Department and Altadena residents?
A: We did survey last June, door-to-door, to see how residents rate us, how we’re doing our job. We scored in, I believe, the 90-plus percentile in terms of satisfaction. Another indicator, since I’ve been here, complaints about the Department have dropped from seven complaints a month to one--if one.
Q: What advice would you give to the new captain?
A: Be engaged, be approachable, and be available. Prepare to work 80 hours a week. If you can't do that, don’t even bother.
Q: And how would you advise a new captain about Altadena, specifically?
A: I’ve found Altadena is like no other town. Altadena is beautiful–it’s a beautiful place–but when the people have something to say, they’re going to say it. Listen; be prepared to listen.
Q: When you leave the Sheriff’s Department, what do you think you’ll miss the most?
A: I’ve been in law enforcement for 32 years, since a teenager, since I was an Explorer. I’m going to miss the people who have come in and out of my life, I’m going to miss the friendships I’ve made in Altadena. I’m going to miss the challenges.
Q: Do you know who your replacement will be?
A: No idea. But whoever it is, I’m going to introduce the new captain, help him or her get to know the community, the town, the people, and what I’ve learned. I won’t leave until that’s done.
Q: Does the selection process allow for community involvement?
A: Officially no, but community involvement should absolutely be a consideration. Also, my recommendations will be factored in, as well as those of others, including Supervisor Michael Antonovich.
Q: What plans do you have for the future?
A: I consider this the second part of my life. I’ve always been curious as to whether I can transfer my skills to the private sector. Of course, I’d like to spend more time with my family.
Q: In other words, you don’t plan to relax, go fishing?
A: I’m not retiring, if that’s what you mean. Oh no, I’m too young for that.