In Salinas, we have a police force of 131 sworn personnel, supporting employees, outdated and overused equipment, and a state-of-the-art 1957 police station. Over the past four years, the City Council - including my opponent -- has voted to reduce the number of sworn officers from 180 to 131, a substantial reduction from what was already one of the thinnest police departments in the area, for the largest city between San Jose and Los Angeles. This is insufficient for Salinas and the challenges we face.
In order to protect public safety, we need to take action immediately to make out police department better. Those actions must include:
1. An increase in the number of officers. Currently, patrol shifts are using as many as 30% officers on mandatory overtime. Fifteen-hour shifts are common. Officers are being called in on days off on a regular basis, usually several times a month and sometimes several times in a week, sometimes with minimal. This understaffing is a recipe for disaster!
2. The police department parking lot needs to be fenced as soon as possible, both for safety reasons and to protect our investment in vehicles and equipment. We cannot maintain a situation which allows more prisoners to escape!
3. An emergency fund needs to be created, to allow officers to deal with emergencies that they encounter without spending their own money. Sometimes emergencies occur without the needed resources; we need to ensure that those emergencies are resolved.
4. Cameras on all officers and on all police vehicles.
During the budget cuts of the past four years, all school resource officers were eliminated, as well as all but two on the Traffic Unit. These positions are essential for a safe Salinas, and must be reinstated as quickly as possible. The police department staffing must be increased to the point where the community is properly served. Sufficient staffing to allow community-oriented policing is essential for the safety and well-being of our community.
There are patrol cars with over 190,000 miles, and support vehicles with over 200,000 miles. That these vehicles work at all is a testimony to hard work by city employees and volunteers, but that cannot continue indefinitely. We need to put some substantial money into new equipment, such as patrol cars. We cannot have a malfunction at a critical moment!
We can no longer afford the slide implemented by the City Council over the past four years. Improvement immediately is needed!