The city of Vallejo filed for bankruptcy in May of last year and now faces several measures that hope to help the city reach some sort of economic equilibrium.
As recently as the last few years, the Vallejo Police Department staff numbered 158 police officers. Now, that staff has been reduced to 117 officers and city decision-makers may take that number down to 97, or below.
As reported in the Vallejo Times-Herald, several council members have differing opinions about the idea.
Councilman Tom Bartee called police reductions untenable.
Councilman Michael Wilson said that the city should not budget for possible state revenue borrowing, as it would likely encourage such behavior.
Benefits and salary increases included in the Vallejo Police Officers Association employee contract, which was modified and extended earlier this year, are unsustainable, Councilwoman Joanne Schivley said.
Vallejo police Sgt. Brett Clark considers the potential officer cuts unbelievable.
Clark serves as the Police Department’s Community Liaison Officer and made strong remarks to the Vallejo City Council at their June 9 meeting.
“In the Police Department we are fiercely struggling to keep our heads above water and provide our citizens with some level of service,” stated Clark.
“I have spoken to well over 400 people at a variety of different community meetings and most citizens that I have spoken with are scared and they have every right to be,” affirmed Clark.
Furthermore, Clark stated that he doubts the Police Department’s ability to continue it’s high level of service with more cuts.
“With another reduction in officer staffing we will in essence be ineffective as a Police Department, which means the safety of our citizens is in grave jeopardy,” declared Clark.
Clark further stated the programs that have already faced cuts.
“We have already been forced to cut our Community Services Division, Narcotics Division, Your Services Division, our DARE program, our Crime Suppression Unit and half of our Traffic Division, just to mention a few.”
In addition, Clark stressed how the Police Department is drastically under employed.
“For 14.5 hours a day, there are only seven patrol officers for the entire city of Vallejo. That is equivalent of one officer for every 18,000 people, or one officer patrolling Rodeo, Corckett and Rio Vista at the same time,” stated Clark.
Vallejo is known nationwide for their bankruptcy filing, and Sergeant Clark is afraid that’s not all they’ll be known for.
“What’s next? Vallejo being known as the only city to completely destroy its own Police Department?”
Will other cities begin to consider such drastic measures?
According to California League of Cities Communications Director, Eva Spiegel, these forms of layoffs are already occurring.
“You’re seeing this sort of thing all across the state,” stated Spiegel.
“Long Beach, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Modesto, and Stockton are seeing many layoffs.”
The Vallejo City Council did not make any finalized budget cuts this past week but did schedule to do so at their next meeting.
Further projected 2009-2010 cuts in Vallejo include the following:
• 16 sworn police officers laid off
• Development Services director position remains vacant
• Reduce debt service interest payments to two percent
• Elimination of firefighters education incentive
• Put fire inspector into firefighting duties
• Reduce fire vehicle maintenance
• Limited staff leave payouts
• Two non-sworn police staff laid off
Andrew Carico can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org