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Does the Visalia Police Department have enough officers?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Visalia police officials say more patrol officers are spending their time responding to calls rather than working to prevent crime.

"When they're going call to call they don't have what we call an obligated time to do some proactive law enforcement," said Capt. Rick Haskill. "Instead of reactive we're faced with the situation now where it's pretty much reactive law enforcement and we want to get away from that."

Recently, the Visalia Police Department hired a consultant to analyze response times and other patrol data to find out if they have the right number of officers out on the streets at the right times. Just a couple weeks after the consultant was hired, two officers were shot while they were investigating a crime. The shooting has made the consultant's job even more pressing.

"Safety of our officers is paramount as is our response to the community," said Capt. Rick Haskill. "We've had 4 officer involved shootings in the last 6 months."

The police chief calls their current policing "inefficient" adding they need more officers to be out on the streets patrolling and preventing crime. She says if things continue as they are, she may have to break up the department's narcotic team to put more officers out on the streets.

Sgt. Kevin Kroeze says patrol officers are busier than ever. Some officials say while the city's population has grown, the number of officers has not.

"We do have our slow days from time to time," said Sgt. Kevin Kroeze. "But I think they are far outnumbered by the shifts that are busy."

A new sales tax initiative currently being considered by the city could allow the department to hire more officers. Right now a task force is putting together a recommendation to the city council on what percent added sales tax should be put on a November ballot and how much should go to the police department.

City manager Steve Salomon says the city's budget is still struggling. He said, "The city has lost a lot of money because of the recession and we've lost a lot of money to the state, millions of dollars to the state."

The city manager says the city will never get back the money it's lost to the state, millions of dollars a year. The task force could recommend as much as a half-cent sales tax increase which voters will approve or vote down in November.

The police department should hear back from the consultant in about a month.

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Tags:
visalia, tulare county, local, jessica peres
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