Kevin Valine

Mayor has plan to hire more cops

Modesto Mayor Ted Brandvold wants to add as many as 21 police officers, which would give the Police Department its biggest number of officers in six years. This comes as the city’s crime rate remains stubbornly high.

Brandvold talked about his proposal Wednesday after the City Council’s Effective Government Committee had finished nearly 2 1/2 days of hearings on Modesto’s proposed 2016-17 budget, which starts July 1. He said the additional police staffing will be part of the modifications he recommends the council adopt when it considers the budget at its June 14 meeting.

Brandvold said he is working with Police Chief Galen Carroll on this proposal, and his recommendations to the council on police staffing will be based on what Carroll thinks is best. Brandvold said Carroll may want a smaller number of new officers so he also can hire community service officers, who handle routine tasks that free up officers to do more police work.

Carroll was not available for comment. The mayor did not talk about his proposal during the budget hearings but spoke about it when asked after Wednesday’s hearing. He said he planned to go public with his proposal at the council’s June meeting.

Brandvold – who took office in late February after winning a mayoral runoff election – said he is fulfilling a campaign promise to hire more police officers. He also formed a 100-day budget review committee in March, charged with looking at how Modesto can free up money in its budget to hire more officers. Brandvold said he will rely on the committee’s work. The committee is expected to have a report and recommendations for the council in June.

Brandvold said his proposal for 21 officers would boost the number of officers allocated in the 2016-17 budget from 219 to 240. The last time the Police Department was allocated at least 240 officers was in the 2010-11 budget, when the allocation was 251, according to Bee archives.

Modesto ranked third in California in property crime and fifth in violent crime per capita in 2014, according to the Police Department.

Brandvold acknowledged just having more officers on the street does not necessarily mean crime will go down, but he said he is confident Carroll – who he said has been resourceful and innovative – will find a way to reduce crime with more staffing. He said cutting the crime rate is not only important for making Modesto safer but will help the city attract and retain businesses.

The funding for the additional staffing will come from the city’s general fund, which is proposed to be $117 million in the city’s 2016-17 budget. Twenty-one new officers could cost about $2.6 million to $3 million annually in salaries, benefits, pensions and other compensation. Brandvold said the city can use some of its expected new revenues in the 2016-17 budget for his proposal but expects much of the funding will come from reducing what the city now spends on other efforts.

The city may have some time to come up with the money to increase police staffing because it can take a long time to hire police officers. Still, the mayor’s proposal could force the council to make difficult, tough choices as it weighs competing spending priorities.

“I’m going to look everywhere for more revenue,” Brandvold said. “It’s going to come from across the board. It’s reprioritizing. That’s what I’ve been saying. We cannot keep the city functioning in the same manner and turn this around.”

Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316

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