Two Modesto City Council members criticized the Police Department Tuesday for providing inaccurate and "over the top" presentations on two proposed ordinances their colleagues supported.
Janice Keating and Will O'Bryant took issue with PowerPoint slides officers gave the council Jan. 8 describing reasons to pass separate measures banning Dumpster diving and increasing penalties for possessing alcohol in city parks.
Officers mistakenly reported that four valley cities had adopted ordinances prohibiting people from foraging in waste containers.
The Bee later found that the cities -- Ceres, Clovis, Oakdale and Tracy -- had ordinances against stealing recyclables or measures designed to protect franchise rights for garbage hauling companies. They did not ban Dumpster diving.
"We have to rely on information from the staff to be accurate and unbiased," Keating said after the meeting.
O'Bryant singled out slides that suggested the alcohol penalties could limit medical costs for habitual drinkers by getting them in court-ordered treatment programs.
The presentation included a photograph and a Christmas card from a man who was arrested on suspicion of drinking alcohol in Graceada Park. The man thanked an officer for helping him get treatment.
The report included two examples of men cited for drinking alcohol in the park who incurred medical bills in excess of $200,000.
O'Bryant also took exception to elements of the presentation on Dumpster diving, such as assertions that the ordinance would deter diseases.
"This is a magnification in the presentation, and that kind of bothers me," O'Bryant said.
Police Chief Roy Wasden was at the meeting but did not comment on the statements by O'Bryant and Keating.
The Police Department helped develop the proposed ordinances in response to community complaints. Officers wanted more resources to deal with repeat offenders who create problems in neighborhoods.
The council Tuesday adopted the Dumpster diving ban on a 4-2 vote. It unanimously passed the new alcohol penalties.
Officers frequently make PowerPoint presentations at City Council meetings that describe department policies and significant public safety issues.
The department won praise for a presentation it gave in support of a ban on medical marijuana clinics in September 2006. Other presentations have taken a straightforward approach to describing downtown safety challenges, and another detailed the department's reasons for revoking a nightclub's dance permit.
Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2366.