Costa Mesa police chief retires
His resignation followed “much consideration and ... prayer.”
By CINDY CARCAMO and KIMBERLY EDDS
The Orange County Register
John D. Hensley in December.
Ygnacio Nanetti, The Register
COSTA MESA — Police Chief John D. Hensley, whose officers would enforce a controversial anti-illegal-immigration policy if it is enacted, announced his retirement today after toying with the idea for the last few weeks.
Hensley didn’t address the department’s 160 officers in person but instead issued an e-mail announcing that he and his wife, Jody, had made the decision after “much consideration and most importantly prayer.”
He turned 50 on March 31, making him eligible for retirement benefits, including up to 90 percent of his salary, Costa Mesa City Manager Allan Roeder said.
Hensley didn’t say why he was retiring effective June 30 and couldn’t be reached to comment.
Roeder wouldn’t elaborate but said multiple factors led to Hensley’s decision.
“One thing I can tell you is that it wasn’t over the immigration issue,” Roeder said.
Hensley returned to work March 27 after a week-and-a-half leave. Two days later, he told his officers that he would stay for the next five or six years.
The city will conduct a statewide search for a replacement, Roeder said.
Lt. Loren Wyrick, a 24-year department veteran, wished Hensley well.
“I think everybody who has worked as long as he has has the right to finish their careers with dignity and respect. He’s doing that on his own terms,” Wyrick said.
Mayor Allan Mansoor, who is urging the City Council to enact a policy that would allow police to check the immigration status of felony suspects, said the chief’s departure wasn’t linked to the proposal.
“He has served the city well and I greatly respect his dedication in addressing the issues the council asked him to focus on,” Mansoor said.
It’s unclear whether the resignation will delay the proposal.
“Time will tell. Certainly not having a chief in place will have an impact on any city business related to law enforcement,” Councilwoman Katrina Foley said.
Hensley was successful in community policing and forging ties with and earning the trust of community members, Foley said.
One opponent of illegal immigration applauded Hensley’s decision and said he was not supportive enough of Mansoor’s proposal.
“Frankly, unless he has the courage to stand up and live up to his oath of office … to enforce the laws, I think it’s wonderful,” advocate Barbara Coe said. “We’re better off without him as chief of police. … If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
Guadalupe Gómez, a member of the Zacatecano Civic Front, which opposes the plan, was disheartened by Hensley’s departure.
He said he fears that the next police chief may not be favorable to illegal immigrants.
“I think it’s a loss for people who believe that police should protect the people of Costa Mesa. Using police officers as immigration officials, I think that’s sending the wrong message to the community,” Gómez said.