Building strong relationships, creating mutual trust and respect between the South Pasadena Police Department and the community has always been a top priority for Brian Solinsky, but since early May others are seeing it firsthand – in a big way.
That’s when he took over as the city’s police chief and began visiting shop owners, managers and employees at local businesses, taking the time to listen to their concerns when it comes to public safety.
It’s an ongoing mission for the police veteran, who has moved up the ranks throughout his long and distinguished career with the SPPD before assuming the top command. Today, he oversees 36 sworn officers, 15 full-time, non-sworn personnel working with an annual budget of roughly $10 million.
“In my 28 years of service here, I know that the business community is a vital component of South Pasadena,” explained Solinsky. “In some communities, the business population may be inadvertently excluded from their city communications, with planning and outreach being geared toward topics and issues that are more resident-focused. Here our businesses are a part of our South Pasadena identity, and they are representative of the values that South Pasadena holds as a close-knit community.”
He stressed the importance of ensuring that all facets of the city are safe, insisting, “both residential and business feel assured of that. Equally, I believe that an effective law enforcement organization must be visible, accessible, as well as approachable so that we may continue to reaffirm our commitment as community partners with all.”
Police everywhere have been called into question for excessive use of force and police misconduct, resulting in large scale demonstrations and protest marches throughout the country, and Solinsky recognizes the importance of agencies improving relationships with those they serve. He has heard the cries from some to defund the police, divesting funds and relocating them to non-policing forms of public safety along with community resources to include social services, housing, healthcare, education and youth services.
“Community policing is a core component of the South Pasadena Police Department model,” Solinsky stressed. “It is part of what we, as a department, embody in our servant leadership philosophy. Community policing entails creating new relationships and positively strengthening those already in existence, and this is something I view as extremely important and find invaluable. A police department’s true strength is measured only by its partnerships with the community. It is not lost on us that it is through positive community support that we are able to do our jobs effectively.”
Part of his job, as Solinsky sees it, is to go on foot from one South Pasadena business to another sounding the message that “these relationships cannot, and will not, be taken for granted. The connection must be constantly nurtured to ensure mutual respect and trust. The community must feel comfortable coming to the police to discuss complex issues. This can only be achieved through continuous dialogue and uninterrupted organizational transparency. I am certainly aware of the concerns surrounding the topic of defunding and the importance of it serving as a starting point for constructive dialogue. Our philosophy is grounded in safety and service to our community, which means working together on positive progression. We recently produced a budget that reaffirms our commitment toward this goal. We will continue to explore ideas and evaluate our resources for effective policing in response to the needs of our community.”
Among those Solinsky paid a visit was Dave Plenn, owner of the Dinosaur Farm, a toy store on Mission Street in South Pasadena featuring a mix of dino and non-dinosaur gifts, who said, “Yes, he came and introduced himself and asked if there was anything the police department could do for us. He stressed that they were accessible and encouraged me to reach out if I had any issues or concerns. No one from the police department has ever done that before. My impression was that he was a good person for this job and he’s a good fit for South Pasadena.”
Janet Benjamin, in the ownership group at Shaw, Moses, Mendenhall & Associates Insurance Agency in town, added she also had never experienced a police chief dropping in on her business up to now. “He said that he was going to all of the offices in our building and in the community to introduce himself,” she said “I thought it was a wonderful thing to reach out to the community. It shows that he really cares about South Pasadena.”
Just down the street in the 800 block of Fair Oaks Avenue, Christine Oh, owner of Berry Opera, which sells pastries, cookies, tarts, cakes and other delectable desserts, was glad the new police chief visited her store, but “unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to meet him,” she said. Instead, Solinsky met with her head chef. Oh looks forward to a potential visit in the future.
Solinsky said the response from the businesses he’s visited has been “remarkable,” noting: “Many have expressed appreciation for the effort and for taking the time to have an open conversation. Likewise, I have appreciated their time and candor with me. The business walks are something I plan to continue, time allowing, on a monthly basis. And, certainly, I plan to continue to interact with our community through other engagement opportunities.”
He insists the South Pasadena Police Department is committed to being accessible, responsive, and approachable while policing with purpose. “Together, we will keep the momentum going to reduce crime, address quality of life issues, and enhance public safety,” said the chief. “I want the community to be assured and confident that their police department is one of professionalism and innovativeness. By those standards, we will continue to review and implement contemporary policing philosophies to ensure the equitable treatment of all who live, work, and visit South Pasadena.”