A shortage of law enforcement hit the Imperial Valley - News 11's Wiley Jawhary reports
CALEXICO, Calif. (KYMA, KECY) - A major alert from Calexico Police, as officers say crime rates are up but recruiting is way down. That has members of the Calexico Police Officers Association begging for more support.
The union tells News 11, there aren't enough officers available to book suspects for non-violent crimes. This includes offenses like drug possession and driving under the influence.
Patrol Officer Michael Gonzales says this causes even more crime in the valley and puts more people in danger.
“We have about 21 officers right now, the shortage is affecting us vastly as well with dispatchers,” Gonzales said.
With a population of about 40,000 residents, police say for every 1,000 citizens there should be one police officer. Right now, they say, that's not the case.
The backbone of the force, dispatchers, is down to only six. The department typically has 12.
“If we don’t have our dispatchers helping us out, it's hard for us to do our jobs,” Gonzales said.
To make matters worse, those arrested for drug possession are not being booked into jail. Officers say it's the fault of Senate Bill 262, a bill highly opposed by law enforcement.
Captain Sheffield explains the bill was put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19. With bail being at $0 for a non-violent crime, it backfired.
"While this was put in place to address the overcrowding of jails in an effort to reduce and stop the spread of the virus, it’s had a negative impact on communities statewide. The Imperial City Council formally took a position of opposition during our regular meeting on July 21," he said.
The average starting salary for a police officer in Calexico is $60,000. The Calexico Police Officers Association and the city council are still in talks to see what can be done to hire more officers.