Santa Monica Police Chief James T. Butts, Jr., who has served the City in that capacity for 15 years, announced his retirement from the department. In a May 24 memorandum to “All Personnel,” the Chief said that he will be going to the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) in the newly created position of Deputy Executive Director of Law Enforcement & Protection Services. He will begin his new assignment in late summer/early fall “following the completion of my responsibilities to ensure an orderly and effective transition of command” at the SMPD.
Butts, who will be a City of Los Angeles employee and report directly to the Executive Director of LAWA, will oversee the nation’s largest airport law enforcement and security organization. He will be responsible for leading the more than 1,200 sworn and civilian personnel assigned to protect and serve at LAWA’s four airports – Los Angeles International (LAX), Ontario International (ONT), Palmdale Regional and Van Nuys. LAX, ONT and Palmdale serve more than 68 million passengers a year, while Van Nuys is the world’s busiest general aviation airport.
In his memorandum announcing the move, Chief Butts noted that during his tenure, “the PD and community working together have seen crime fall to its lowest level since 1957, average police liability expenses fall to an average of less than $60,000 per year and public approval ratings surge into the 80 percent range. Citizen complaints are at a historic low and excessive force complaints today are a rarity.”
Earlier this year, the SMPD reported that crime in 2005 declined 1 percent as compared to 2004. “One would have to go back nearly five decades to 1957 to find a year in which Santa Monica’s overall crime was lower than it was in 2005,” Lt. Frank Fabrega, the public information officer for the Police Department, said at the time. Crime fell in 11 of the past 12 years in Santa Monica. This long-term decline is all the more remarkable when one considers that these are reports of raw numbers. “Santa Monica today is not the Santa Monica of 1957,” as Lt. Fabrega noted. “Increases in the City’s population of permanent residents and the massive jump in the number of daytime visitors and tourists must be considered to appreciate the magnitude of the increase in public safety.”
In his “All Personnel” memorandum, Chief Butts thanked and acknowledged “all of you that have made my career a success…I am thankful, grateful and humbled by your support and excellence.” He concluded: “I am the luckiest man alive. I got to spend 15 years of my life with all of you. It will forever be my honor to have served with you.”