On July 13, Blythe City Councilmember Joe Halby publicly voiced concerns with the presented Blythe Police Officers' Association (BPOA) letter of support and recommendation for Chief of Police.
The City of Blythe is currently in the vetting process toward filling the law enforcement agency's top spot following former Blythe Police Department (BPD) Police Chief Joshua Coe’s abrupt resignation in mid-April.
As stated on July 13, BPOA voted and agreed on June 13 to support current interim Lt. Garth Dale for Chief of Police in the upcoming selection process.
"I appreciate your letter. I do have a couple of concerns – one being that this letter is pretty much the same letter we read about two years ago. And when the newspaper questioned BPOA about that (2021) resignation, (BPOA) had no comment. And I feel that they should comment. So, I would like to see a comment to the paper – BPOA – about that resignation," said Halby.
As previously reported, in response to a Times inquiry on May 4, City of Blythe Interim City Manager Mallory Crecelius confirmed Coe resigned with a last day of April 15.
Coe did not provide a resignation letter to the city, and no officials contacted by the Times would publicly comment on any on-the-record reason(s) or basis for his resignation.
Notably, the published May 11 Blythe City Council meeting agenda’s warrant register lists a $38,955.32 sum next to Vendor No. 003753’s “Coe, Joshua” (Voucher No. 73216; Invoice No. 041521; Date 04/20/2021) with a description of “Per Agreement.”
Coe – who spent over 18 of his 19-plus year law enforcement career with BPD – took interim helm of the agency in April 2019 following predecessor Chief Jeff Wade’s retirement.
A U.S. Army veteran, then-interim Coe received public and unanimous support from BPOA ahead of his Jan. 14, 2020, full-time BPD Chief of Police employment agreement confirmation as approved by the City Council.
In May of this year, BPOA declined comment in response to a Times inquiry on Coe’s 2021 resignation.
BPD’s current acting police chief is Keith Walnoha, with detective sergeant Garth Dale set to the post of acting lieutenant.
"While we are sure the candidates you will be considering will have impressive credentials, we are also sure none besides Garth Dale will possess his unique combination of extensive, large agency Palo Verde Valley law enforcement experience, along with specific Blythe PD operations and administrative tenure. In his over three decades of law enforcement experience, Garth Dale has spent a large portion of that time serving in the Palo Verde Valley and most importantly, with Blythe PD. Given the recent turmoil and uncertainty at the highest level of Blythe PD leadership, it is crucial that Blythe PD personnel – and by extension everyone in the City of Blythe – have a sense of consistency and familiarity with the new Chief of Police, and that the Chief have an intimate knowledge of Blythe, and Blythe PD. Given those concerns, Garth Dale is the obvious choice," states BPOA President Troy Fabanich's submitted written communication letter to the Blythe City Council. "Interim Lieutenant Dale currently serves and functions as an administrative level at Blythe PD. As such, he is well acquainted with interfacing with Blythe City Council and Blythe City Management. He is aware of Blythe's fiscal considerations and is committed to functioning within that framework while at the same time, making common sense, financially efficient improvements to Blythe PD equipment and function, thereby improving Blythe PD's service to the community. During the early days of the pandemic when staffing was at a critical level, Interim Lieutenant Dale functioned as acting chief. In short and simple terms, Garth Dale combines large agency experience and know-how, with Blythe and Blythe PD inside experience. Garth Dale is not merely an administrator, however; he is a 'cop's cop' who places a high value on preventing crime, solving crimes, and catching and prosecuting suspects. Garth Dale has strong ties to Blythe. In addition to his role at Blythe PD, Garth Dale also teaches classes in the criminal justice field at Palo Verde College, helping to shape future officers at Blythe PD. His recreational pursuits of shooting sports and desert exploration find their perfect expression right here in Blythe. It is with all the above in mind and more, that the BPOA gives its enthusiastic support to Interim Lieutenant Garth Dale for Chief of Blythe PD."
With uniformed BPD officers – including Dale and Walnoha – in attendance, Blythe City Councilmembers took a moment to voice their general support for BPD.
"I'd like to thank the Blythe Police officers who showed up today to support the BPOA presentation; thank you," stated Councilmember Johnny Rodriguez, who retired from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.
Councilmember Samuel Burton added: "I just want to say – to the Blythe PD – I appreciate you guys' dedication and hard work. And keep it up."
Blythe Mayor Dale Reynolds and Vice Mayor Joey DeConinck also iterated support for BPD.
"And with all that being said, thank you – to each and every one of you – for what you do for this community. And we will take your recommendation for consideration when we look for a chief," said Reynolds. "You are my brothers, so. I've always got your back and you've got mine; thank you."
DeConinck added: "I'll echo that, too – we're all here to try to do the best we can for our community, so."
In response to a follow-up Times inquiry regarding Halby's July 13 statements – which specifically called for BPOA to publicly address Coe's April 2021 resignation – BPOA declined comment at this time.
"Oh, no doubt – I support all you guys; don't take it the wrong way," said Halby on July 13. "I'm just – you know: accountability is what we aim for, right boys?"