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By Eric Heinz

When Lt. Mike Peters was 7 years old, he paid the price for a crime he committed.

Peters said he stole a toy from a local store, and when his parents found out, the punishment was swift. His father worked for the San Clemente Public Works Department and would frequently drop the tiny would-be chief off at the dispatch center while he worked.

“My dad had the officers put me in the holding cell,” Peters said, “and they locked the door behind me. Now, I was probably only in there for a few seconds, but as a kid, it seemed like forever. When my dad came back, he asked, ‘Do you like it in there?’ From then on, I understood the importance of the law.”

Peters was recently named the chief by the city of San Clemente, and he replaces outgoing chief Lt. David Moodie, who had been the head of the department since 2014.

Born and raised in San Clemente, Peters said he has a personal connection to the city.

His initial plans were to pursue a degree in physical therapy and that law enforcement wasn’t something his mother wanted him to do, but his father encouraged it.

Lt. Mike Peters will take command of San Clemente Police Services as chief on May 26. Photo: Eric Heinz
Lt. Mike Peters will take command of San Clemente Police Services as chief on May 26. Photo: Eric Heinz

“I was always attracted to law enforcement,” Peters said.

Peters graduated from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) Regional Training Academy in 1996. He would eventually end up working in the county’s jail system on and off for a few years. Eventually, Peters was able to transfer to patrol duty in San Clemente, but afterward he was assigned to lead a special forces division and a mutual aid department at the same time.

After that he went to work as part of the SWAT team before transferring to the academy as a tactical officer.

His 19-year-old son is a custody services assistant with OCSD in the jail system.

He may be from San Clemente, but Peters will have his hands full from the get-go. He will be tasked with leading the TRIP (Targeting Reduction Investigation Prevention) efforts, which includes responding to trespassers and other infractions, as well as filling a role on the newly established Police Services Task Force—that on top of the litany of issues that he will undoubtedly have to address.

“TRIP is a phenomenal program that former Chief David Moodie put together,” Peters said. “It has extremely active people on the team that want to make a difference. That’s key. (We must) keep those people motivated.”

Peters said he recognizes that San Clemente’s most frequent crimes are primarily infractions to residents’ “quality of life”.

“I’ve been the lead instructor at our academy for community-oriented policing, which problem-oriented policing is a part of, for 16 years,” Peters said. “I believe wholeheartedly in the philosophy (of local police work). It’s a matter of finding the right people to work under that philosophy and bringing them into the city and having them take ownership of this city as I do.”

Peters has already used the study from Matrix Consulting as a guide to residents’ concerns.

“The top three responses in the Matrix Study were homelessness, panhandling and drug use,” Peters said. “A lot of those are national issues in addition to San Clemente issues. The City Council and city manager are trying to find a solution, but (the issues) have to be addressed on a national level.”

Another thing that residents have pleaded the city for is an increase in sheriff’s deputies patrolling San Clemente. Whether Peters will ask for more officers is not known at this time.

“I don’t know for sure because I haven’t stepped into the position,” Peters said. “There are fewer staff members now than when I was on patrol here. But at the same time, crime is different. The problems are different. So all we can do is try to keep up. They city is doing a good job in its spending; I think 22 percent of its budget is dedicated to law enforcement, which is pretty low. The best thing we can do is increase our visibility and let people know that we are out there. The more visible we are, I think that in itself reduces crime.”

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comments (3)

  • the question is who’s quality of life and how that will be judged
    ill share a old letter regarding punishment for not

    How brave how proud what hero’s what crime fighters san Clements city council and orange county sheriff department continues to persecute and harass hard working men and woman just for driving and parking standard size work trucks with ladder securely attached to their rack or material sticking out of the bed of their truck for the next day’s work
    exempting the Cox cable company and turning a blind eye to every other kind of vehicle carrying , or with the exact same kinds of materials attached to it

    maybe it’s a matter of ascetics maybe we should bring back the burka or maybe some of us should wear two in case the first one falls off
    not understanding some of us are hurt , in pain or just sore and tired ,some need the safety of the driveway for the safety of family , friends or little ones
    not all apartments can accommodate a truck with a rack not all driveways are long enough not all homes have a driveway or off street parking in san clemente
    some of us moved to the city part of town to avoid neighborhoods with ccr and busy body associations

    sir my city needs my input,, but i find myself so agro over these selectively enforced snob laws that i can’t function in our best interest ::::::(-:P please stop blue collar discrimination

    • help, please…..yesterday i was at the la tienda thrift store..transient headquarters…..and i stood at the regidter dripping with sweat from side effects of my 10th PET/CT scan in 3 years…(i have stage 3 breast cancer) …and this creepy, scrawny middle-aged wite man steps in the front of the line at the register.., and with a handful of clothese under his left arm, with a shovel in his right hand, abruptly demands, “HEY, MAN, CAN I HAVE THESE CLOTHES AND THIS SHOVEL!!!”…THE MAN AT THE REGISTER EXCLAIMED HAPPILY, “sure”. wtf???????????? i struggle with cancer. my dad was the vice principle at SCHS……
      …ROSS VELDERRAIN…WHAT IS THE TRANSIENT MAN WITH THE FREE CLOTHES PLANNING DIGGING WITH THE FREE SHOVEL????? gee…i, wonder…i can only guess…to dig a hole in the ground somewhere hidden…for poop. please stop these transients from taking over, Mike. please

  • im sorry renee i hope things get better , i’ve noticed the less i see deputy bull around n-beach the less satisfactory things become whats his secrete ?

comments (3)

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