Letter to the Editor: One MLPD man gives personal view


Open Letter to the citizens of Mammoth Lakes;

When I was a child in San Diego, my parents would always take me with them when they had to go shopping; whether to the grocery store or one of the two new shopping malls, I would have to tag along and most the time I was bored out of my mind. But when my eye would catch a glimpse of an item of merchandise that interested me, invariably I would reach out to grasp the object. I remember my mom or dad telling me not to touch it; that if I broke it they would have to pay for it. More often than not, as soon as they looked away, I would reach out and touch the object of my fancy or pick it up, not knowing what the cost would be if I fumbled it. That didn’t matter; I knew what I was doing. Then one day, while on vacation in Ohio in 1968, I decided that I could figure out my dad’s new Bell and Howell 8mm movie camera against his explicit warnings. In my arrogance I was going to prove to him that I was big enough to handle it… that is until it slipped out of my hand and hit the driveway hard. The camera was broken and my father was the victim of my prideful incompetence. I didn’t pay for that blunder in cash; I paid for it in the woodshed.

Over the past few years, the Mammoth Lakes Police Department has been the object of focus for the Mammoth Lakes town council. There have been so many words written recently regarding the details of what the town council has demanded of this agency that I will not revisit them, but the bottom line is this, the council members feel that MLPD officers are paid too much. Rick Wood said as much in the last council meeting, 10-03-12, and I am sure he is not the only one. I would be willing to bet my over inflated salary that Mr. Wood, Mr. Eastman and the rest of the town council members don’t think that they make too much money. After all they are elected officials, übermenschen.

It is that same level of arrogance that has tainted this council for the last decade; the arrogance that disregarded the advice of an attorney and got this town into a $42 million law suit in the first place. It is the same arrogance and ignorance that would opine that police officers are overpaid blue-collar plutocrats; hired guns that don’t earn their keep and hide behind the badge while making exorbitant wages off the backs of the tax payers.

The reality is that according to a 2006 study by the Police Association for College Education, 22.6 percent of police officers in the United States have a four-year degree from an accredited college or university, and the number of officers with college degrees has been growing by 2% annually. In California I believe that number is significantly higher. The national average of people with college degrees per capita is 27%. California police officers are the most highly trained professional law enforcement officers in the world. Retired and active California peace officers are in demand around the globe as trainers for emerging departments.

I for one do not have a degree, but my process for becoming a police officer started when I was a teenager and I made choices not to drink and drive or take drugs, or engage in other activities that would eliminate me as an officer candidate before I ever took the civil service exam. The hiring process took 18 months while I had to pass psychiatric testing, polygraph testing, and a background investigation that was so thorough many applicants didn’t make it. My training started in 1989 with a six month long stress academy with San Diego Police Department and then another four months of field training with a cadre of Field Training Officers (FTO’s). The real process of becoming a police officer doesn’t kick into full gear until after the academy and the field work begins. Depending on where a new officer works, the foundation of his or her training isn’t finished until after 3-5 years in the field. Since graduating from the academy, my career has been a long string of specialized training schools, instructor schools, tactical schools, mob and riot training, active shooter response training, cultural sensitivity training and perishable skills refresher courses. California POST mandates much of this training and oversees all of it.

Beyond the formalized training that I have received over the course of my career, just working the streets of San Diego and Mammoth Lakes for the last 24 years has been an incredible education. I have been involved in three officer involved shootings, too many car chases to count, fights, the Rodney King riots, the 1996 RNC Convention and presidential debates between Clinton and Dole, all the while trying to stay “normal” while I raise four children and support a beautiful wife. I was gone way too many nights and days protecting the public when my wife and children needed me at home. I am sorry folks, but I don’t apologize for the pay and benefits that I received. My family and I earn every penny of pay and pension and so do the officers that I work with and their families.

The Mammoth Lakes Police Department has several hundred years’ worth of combined law enforcement experience based out of that mold infested building the TOML wants to call a police station. Not only are we professional and educated, we have to conduct ourselves calmly in the face of violence and risk to our own safety on behalf of the public that we are sworn to protect. We have to work around the clock with frequent shift changes, deal with people and circumstances that the general public is not capable of handling effectively. What training has the town council members received that qualifies them to run a major resort community… that is besides winning a popularity contest?

Being a police officer takes its toll on the body and mind. After 24 years of shift work I can’t get more than 5 hours of sleep a day, regardless of how exhausted I am. I have buried one of my academy mates and have attended the funerals of several other SDPD officers who were murdered in the line of duty. Men and women who put their lives on the line for the public, all of you regardless of whether you love us or hate us, when you need us we are there for you. That public includes government officials like the town council members; people who with the exception of Mayor Matt Lehman and the late Skip Harvey refuse to even go on a ride along to get an idea of what we do. No, it’s way easier to believe that we are overpaid and unskilled. Well the council can believe what they want about us, but one other important fact about cops that they have completely over looked is that, as a group, cops are very loyal like dogs, but like dogs when we keep getting kicked we will jump the fence and you won’t see us again.

People of Mammoth Lakes, I am afraid that many of you do not realize what a precious asset you have had in this police department, and now, due to the arrogant ham-handedness of the town council and their chronic mishandling of this department, the majority of your officers are done. Our faith in this town government is gone and individual officers are taking early retirement or are seeking employment elsewhere. We are here because we wanted to be, not because we had to be and unfortunately after years of being lied to, publicly berated by our employers, falsely accused of corruption, dragged before a grand jury and subsequently cleared by that grand jury, many officers no longer want to be here.

I have made so many good friends during my tenure here, there are so many dear Mammoth residents that have supported this department and worked with us to make Mammoth Lakes a safe resort destination and a safe place to live and raise families. From the depths of my heart I thank you people; the Cert Team and too many others to mention.

At this point, I don’t believe that anything the council could do will change the exodus that is in the process of happening. I am not saying this for shock value or out of pity for the officers; MLPD officers are as good as any in the state and they will find jobs in cities that support them and the difficult work that they do. My pity is for you citizens who didn’t ask for this to happen, but will have to live with the consequences none the less. In other words, your elected officials have broken it and you are going to have to pay for it yet once again.

So what will the Town of Mammoth Lakes do when there aren’t enough officers to be able to function? I don’t know, that isn’t my problem anymore, I’m retiring and I am quite done with the mismanagement of this town by people that don’t even know what they don’t know. And what new officers will want to work here in the future; word gets around fast, and Mammoth Lakes, like Stockton, San Bernardino and Costa Mesa will be a “toxic city”, in other words a town with the stink of bankruptcy, enmity for public safety and financial uncertainty wafting around for years to come.

So after the dust settles and you need to call 911, you might want to call one of the council members, maybe they will be able to help you.

As a parting note I want it known that this letter is my personal opinion and was written by me alone as an exercise of my 1st amendment rights, I do not speak for the Administration or the officers of the Mammoth Lakes Police Department.


Jesse Gorham


31 Responses to Letter to the Editor: One MLPD man gives personal view

  1. SierraFan October 9, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    Well said Jesse!! The points you’ve made are as true as true can be. It’s pretty easy to just sit there on a pedestal and/or the sidelines and drive from the back seat. I know you guys have been through the ringer over and over again regarding the things you mentioned (brutal especially how public it is) and I for one feel bad about that. Just know that although on blogs, newspapers, etc. might seem like everything is negative most folks around here think highly of the job you all do and I thank you for that. I’m sad to know that you’re retiring because of your aforementioned challenges but I certainly understand it. THANK YOU!!!

  2. More town council B.S. October 9, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

    Standing ovation officer Jesse Gorham!

    The greed in this town never ceases to amaze me. Mammoth is a microcosm of the rest of America, the snowballing fiscal failures of our leaders is the new normal.. The corruption and money worship that has caused so much of these local fiscal problems is quite simply nauseating.

  3. cl October 9, 2012 at 11:56 pm #

    amen. I support you guys 100%

  4. Mammothite October 10, 2012 at 1:47 am #

    Excellent letter Officer Gorham. This really needed to be said by someone on the inside. It takes about 6 months for an officer to be hired once he applies to another agency as a lateral transfer. It will be very interesting to see what MLPD looks like in six months. The officers now know they have no future here.

    What Town Council and the Town Managers have no concept of, is how marketable an experienced police officer is in California.

    At the last Town Council meeting, there were two local businessmen standing in the back. They were loudly saying, with an officer standing close by, that the Town should fire all the police officers and hire them back at fifty cents on the dollar. As you said, they don’t know what they don’t know.

    MLPD officers will do well as they leave a Town with dysfunctional leadership, to transfer to other Police and Sheriff’s Departments around the state. Some will stay close and transfer to Bishop or inyo County.

    Police Departments and Sheriff’s Departments around California are in constant competition to hire lateral officers. Most offer a $5,000.00 signing bonus. The officers that leave Mammoth will have better pay and benefits and work at a location where they will be appreciated. Starting pay for lateral officers is 70K to 80K a year with many agencies. They will be able to work 3/12 shifts and live where they want to live. They will also have the opportunity to work their choice specialized assignments and promote fairly quickly if they wish to. They gave these perks up to work in beautiful Mammoth Lakes. It is no longer worth it to them or their families to work for the Town officials that are in power now.

    Mammoth Lakes, on the other hand, will not have enough officers to provide a level of service that residents and visitors expect from their Police Department. The town will find it nearly impossible to recruit and retain quality officers. Come, July 2013, the Town will not have to worry about laying off Police Officers, they will be doing everything they can to fill vacant positions at a Police Department where no one in the state wants to work.

    Thank you for your service, Officer Gorham. Your smiling face and friendly demeanor will be missed in our community.

  5. Nobody hates cops October 10, 2012 at 6:30 am #

    Nobody hates the police, Jesse.
    But when in uncharted waters, and an unsure economy, things monetary must be scrutinized.
    Can we survive with fewer cops? Do town officials make too much money? Is there some palm-greasing going on behind decisions concerning development? How far does the greed go? Sometimes change is hard. Especially on taxpayers, your tired, your poor,
    and your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
    I don’t see how the economy in general can ever turn around to what it once was since World War II.
    Everyone must begin to accept this fact.

    • Jesse October 10, 2012 at 11:01 am #

      Yes I don’t disagree with you on that, but this isn’t about not having enough money, let’s put that point to rest. Less money yes, tighten the belt, hell yes, and MLPD has been the red headed step-child when it comes to giving up people and pay for the last few years. The council needs to learn a new trick and stop toying with public safety. It’s time to charge for bus rides, it’s time to stop the housing subsidies, it’s time to say no to pet projects like that monumental sign on 203. 17 officers is the minimum to keep this town safe and the same will be true in July when that MOU clause expires.

  6. Roy October 10, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    As a retired police officer with 30 years experience I want to thank you for your years of service and wish you the best in your retirement years. I agree with everything you have said.. I am convinced the leaders of Mammoth Lakes must have oatmeal for brains.. The proposal to cut the police dept. to such unsafe levels is nothing but pure stupidity on the part of the leaders of Mammoth Lakes.

  7. Beth Hamilton October 10, 2012 at 7:44 am #

    Well Said, Officer Gorham. Thank you for your committment and service to this community. I wish you the best in your retirement.

    Many, not just you see the mismanagement by the council.

  8. Eastern Sierra local October 10, 2012 at 7:57 am #

    Well written and thoughtful piece.
    Welcome to public service where the uniformed “public” votes on your pensions, health care, and benefits; while not knowing anything about what you actually do- the typical “Bureacrat Beat.”
    Then when the same “uniformed public” needs their public servants (and can’t get one) suddenly its “government’s fault” for not providing services that their “high taxes” pay for.

    • JeanGenie October 10, 2012 at 9:49 am #

      ESL, Do you mean “uninformed”? You wrote uniformed.

  9. Dee October 10, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    Excellent letter.
    I agree with Jesse, the same folks that blundered around arrogantly with a lawsuit that has really hurt the town of Mammoth Lakes, are now setting up the town for another blunder, cutting essential services like law enforcement that will make it much more difficult to attract professionals in the future while creating a really lousy situation for all residents of the town and the MLPD.
    The town council does have a record of arrogance and ignorance, just one more blunder to add to that record, cut law enforcement drastically. Sounds like Mammoth Lakes is going to lose a good man serving their community and perhaps more to follow, who can blame them?

  10. Tourbillon October 10, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    Officer Gorham, thanks for your service. Fair winds and following seas.

    That said, what is playing out in the country and in Mammoth is not about you, or your sacrifices, or about the worth of public servants. It’s about a government whose size and ambitions we simply cannot afford any more. It’s about a government whose overreach has led to this – cuts in the most basic services.

    So it’s really about the need to adapt. That’s painful. I know. Part of my work was recently offshored to India. But writing lachrymose self-indulgent letters is not going to help me or you. As we get older, it becomes harder and more painful to change, but change we must, or get passed by.

    • Jesse October 10, 2012 at 11:12 am #

      Thanks for your comment, and for your good wishes to me in my retirement, but please don’t spin my letter because it was anything but self indulgent. If anything it’s at my own risk since I still work for those who were the brunt of my criticism. I hope I don’t get fallout from it. That said, there are two prime functions of government; public safety and public works. When funds get short government must maintain those two functions. All the other pet projects should be on the chopping block.

      • Big AL October 10, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

        Good luck Jesse, I hear ya about the fall out, but you said some things that needed to be said. I’m glad you did. The truth hurts .. and some will be bitten by the truth.

    • we are doomed October 10, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

      you forget why we are in this predicament. It is not because we pay too much for public servants, it is not because we over spent. It is because of a frikin arrogant screwed up mentality of the town and the council that continues today.
      The town would have got past this national economic turmoil pretty good. It was this Legal matter that has killed the town. Millions have been spent in waste to avoid the inevitable.
      Jessie nor any other police officer should have to have such a drastic pay cut because of the jerks that we have trusted in office.

      Out with them all I say

      Now w

    • What is reasonable? October 10, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

      Officer Gorham,
      I thank you for your time and dedication to providing your public service to the Mammoth community and other communities you have served. But you must realize, as does this town consul, that like all industry and businesses, important cost cutting must be done. I have spent my entire career in the financial service sector and have had 60% of my good friends and colleagues fired since the financial crisis hit the global economy. The industry throughout the US is 50% smaller than when it was in 2007. There are many good people still looking for jobs. They don’t have the luxury like you state in your letter to just transfer to other cities and keep their great jobs. They also do not receive the fantastic pensions you receive after your short career. A fiend of our family recently retired from the LA County Sheriff Dept. at the very young age of 40 after 20 years in the dept. to go work in Hawaii as a life guard and bartender receiving a $98,000 a year pension from LA County. Really??? At 40? That is absurd and we the tax payers pay for it…Another deputy retired at 45 and is now a real-estate agent. Where in the private sector can that happen?
      I think when many residents in Mammoth including myself drive by the Mammoth Police Dept and see all brand new patrol cars sitting in the parking lot all day you have to ask yourself… Why are they sitting there? Because there is nothing to do!!! When I do see the patrol cars they are either siting in Whiskey Creek parking lot or at the Village waiting for something to happen.
      Why can’t the Mammoth community work with 10 officers? Why 17 or 28 that Chief Watson so desperately asks for? Can’t we learn to police ourselves? Just this summer Nevado’s was broken into and a few things were stolen and it was huge news. Did 17 officers need to respond? Or more recently the new DUI’s the dept is handing out like candies. Or when you see the officers writing tickets to Mammoth visitors for not parking correctly at Canyon or Main Lodge… They should be passing out vouchers for coming to town and sharing their hard earned dollars as tourists, not tickets.
      The new saying in Los Angeles from what I am told is… ” Go to Mammoth on Vacation… Go home on Probation…” Nice going MLPD.
      Police officers can be wonderful people helping the community, but Mammoth needs a reality check.

      • Big AL October 10, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

        I think you need a reality check somewhat … some what reasonable .. I agree with the younger retirement age, to a certain point, yes it is very hard to see someone retire at the age of 40 or 45 or 50 .. but .. you don’t understand what most officers go through day in and day out, the crap they put up with, it takes it’s toll on one.

        As for the amount of patrol units, there are not really so many units there, whether they be brand new or old.

        Think about it, everyone pisses about them being new, but how many times have seen people buy cars, keen them for a period of time, then sell them, the mileage is high, or they start to cost the owner money to own, you name it.

        They might not be used all at once, but a fleet needs a certain amount of vehicles in it to function properly.

        The same with the force, you don’t have all 17 officers on duty at the same time, you have 3 or more different shifts, with staggered schedules. So your comment about all 17 officers responding to one incident doesn’t sound too much like you are speaking in reality.

      • Roy October 10, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

        I totally disagree with your claim that a LASD Deputy at 40 years of age with the years of service you said he had would receive 98k a year for a pension. I am retired from the LASD as a Sgt. with 30 years of service and I don/t make anywhere near 98k a year in my pension. A deputy at 40 years of age would only receive a little more than 1 percent per year of service.. Even with a service connected disability retirement he wouldn’t make half of what you claim…

      • Jesse October 11, 2012 at 12:32 pm #

        No one can retire in CalPERS under the age of 50 (as far as I have ever heard)unless they were medically retired in which case they would make half their top salary and have lifetime medical for themselves only. Your story doesn’t jive with the restrictions of Cal PERS. I don’t doubt that you are repeating what you were told, but what you were told is not possible under the current rules of retirement. If I am wrong on that someone please correct me.

        • Roy October 11, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

          LA County is not part of Calpers, we have our own retirement system… I just checked on our retirement board website… A 40 year old Deputy with 20 years would only retire at 25% of the average of his last 3 years salary…IT is impossible that their friend made 98 k a year

      • JeanGenie October 11, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

        “Go to Mammoth on Vacation, come home on probation” is a pretty darn old saying. Probably coined after Mammoth became a town.

  11. MJA October 10, 2012 at 8:47 am #

    Keep the police and tell Ballas and Mammoth Lakes Land or Money Acquisiition to get lost.
    Tell them to build their condos and be done with them.


  12. dguy October 10, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    it is true what this Officer is saying. I used to live in mammoth and because of the poor judgement the town has made for the last ten years, I moved to Bishop. The town is going “into shit.”

  13. Sean F October 10, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    Well said Jesse!

  14. Lone Ranger October 10, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    It is good for the fine folks to see that there is a human in that uniform and that there is more than a uniform! Been there and done that! Have faith that good will come from your efforts. I do!

  15. Bob October 10, 2012 at 1:35 pm #


    You miss the point altogether.

    As is the case with any municipality — whether a one stoplight town, a mountain hamlet, or New York City — there are dedicated and outstanding public servants such as yourselves. No one is questioning your traning, your sacrifice, or your qualifications. It seems to me that you fit that bill, based on what you shared.

    The question is: does Mammoth Lakes need that kind of investment or horsepower? Frankly, you are OVER qualified for the needs of Mammoth Lakes at the officer level. One could make an argument that your skills /experience / compensation are better suited for a leadership or management role, but that is another conversation.

    I would bet dollars to doughnuts that the per capita expense of the MLPD is out of line with places like Tahoe, Telluride, Park City, and Taos….other mid sized ski towns. Sorry but the comparisons to Stockton and Fresno are completely and totally absurd, and damage your credibility to even mention.

    In economically challenging times, these are the questions that need to be asked.

    PS This is NOT to disagree with your take on local governance and leadership. You and I see completely eye to eye on that issue.

  16. Chris October 10, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    Jesse, I know what a hard working and dedicated officer you are, and I thank you for representing the best face of California law enforcement. I am sorry you have decided to retire, but I certainly understand it. What you say in your letter is so true, about Mammoth Lakes’ government blunders, as well as those of other cities.

    Those who think a smaller police department would do will be the first ones, when they become crime victims, to cry, “Call the Police!”, and who will be available to come to their aid? If tourism and visitor numbers are so important to this council, its members should consider how desirable a community is if it has a reputation of being crime ridden, even if that crime is “small time”.

    Law enforcement officers, during their training, learn about the “broken window effect”, wherein one broken window unattended to in a building leads to another, then to another, and before you know it, you have an area known for criminal activity which is undesirable to residents and visitors. MLPD works hard to prevent this kind of pattern throughout Mammoth. Let the school resource officer go, MONET slide, and other preventive programs disappear, as well as enough officers to respond to high population events and attenuating calls, and I predict a new crop of “broken windows” in Mammoth. Is this what the community wants?

    Thank you for writing your letter, Jesse. We wish you and your family the best in your retirement, in health, and in family time.

  17. Josh Sams October 10, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    What is reasonable!!!!

    Go to Mammoth for vacation, don’t come home on probation?

    You must travel down the hill to Bishop for Mule Days, because that is the slogan they have on there BPOA T-Shirts… Don’t make things up to make yourself feel like you have a “say” in what Officer Gorham is talking about. You said it yourself, you are in the financial sector, and probably have no idea about what Officer Gohram is talking about. I am sure if one of the 60% of your friends that got fired wrote a letter with there concerns about their jobs you would have nothing negative to say. All and all, keep it to yourself.

    Jesse, good luck in retirement…

  18. Rob October 10, 2012 at 10:09 pm #

    Officer Gorham,

    I feel your pain, but I don’t agree with your tactics or your assessment.

    The reality is – the money is not there. I agree – the reason are infuriating, a series of missteps that you could only sit by and watch. Dumb politicians and staff members made dumb decisions that have left every single taxpayer in Mammoth Lakes on the hook.

    When 66% of tax revenue is from out-of-town guests, providing service and safety to those guests should be a priority. Why we have a Town Administration that takes up almost as much public safety is truly baffling.

    Instead of their hard-earned tax dollars going to pay for services which benefit them, like police, it will go to pay off a bad bet. Dedicated police officers – public safety being the biggest slice of the budget pie – will either give up pay and benefits or lose their jobs.

    All that said – the reality remains, the money is not there.

    Charging for bus rides, which would cause MUCH more harm than good, won’t make up the difference. Only cutting back on expenses while promoting and boosting the opportunities for true economic development will boost tax revenue.

    Until revenues are enhanced the service delivery model will have to be changed, or employees will have to be paid less (either in salary or benefits).

    It totally blows, it is unfair, but it is fact – time to deal with it. There are many people who cobble together a living in order to live in Mammoth, and Mammoth simply cannot afford big-city cop pay.

    While we’re on that subject – the chief’s compensation is an embarassment. The entire Town Council and management should be fired for approving that lavish joke.

  19. The game is stacked against us October 11, 2012 at 7:50 am #

    A recall election (also called a recall referendum or representative recall) is a procedure by which voters can remove an elected official from office through a direct vote before his or her term has ended. Recalls, which are initiated when sufficient voters sign a petition, have a history dating back to the ancient Athenian democracy and are a feature of several contemporary constitutions.

    So, where the hell is the petition for me to sign?
    (There is absolutely nothing on the City’s Website as to how this is done)

  20. Robert Joseph October 11, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    I am retired after 28.9 years in, hands on, law enforcement. I have suffered broken ribs crippled hands and have arthritis in my left shoulder. I have stood over the bodies of my partners who were not as fortunate as I and did not live to retire. I have a simple thing to say to the people of Mammoth Lakes. “You get what you pay for”. You don’t think that you need so many police because you don’t have a high crime rate, then cut your department and invite the criminals in. You too can become like Stockton and San Bernardino where people have to barricade themselves in at night. These cities, like Mammoth Lakes, were mismanaged by their elected leaders for decades and now they want to make Law Enforcement the scapegoat. You complain about the police enforcing your laws by writing parking tickets, then change the law and see the traffic jams and the drop in city revenue. You complain about DUI arrests then accept the deaths the drunks cause. You don’t want the laws enforced then for a brief period people will come to Mammoth Lakes because it is a “Party Town” where anything goes, but then decent people will avoid it like a plague town. You could give up your police department and contract with the Sheriff or another agency for services but you would still have to pay for it. You could dis incorporate and have the Sheriff provide Law Enforvement. Nobody will mind that it may take hours or even days for a cop to arrive for a non-emergency theft call or 30 minutes to an hour for an emergency. Think about it. The people who protect you, Police, Fire and Emergency Medical are the most important things for you and your family. Think of what it would be like to have one day without them. A safe community is what helps bring in tourism get rid of your free ride programs.


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