Mayor Ted Brandvold wants to increase police staffing, and Police Chief Galen Carroll has a target: 16 officers, three sergeants and four community service officers.
Brandvold said last week he wanted the funding to hire as many as 21 more officers in Modesto’s 2016-17 budget, which starts July 1. That would increase the number of officers the Police Department is allocated from 219 to 240. The last time the department was allocated at least 240 officers was six years ago, when the allocation was 251. Brandvold also said he would work with Carroll on fine-tuning the plan.
Carroll stressed that his request is a proposal and it will be up to the mayor and City Council to decide what the city can afford. Carroll said he would have the officers focus on patrol to give his patrol officers a needed break. The department has gone through a huge turnover in the last couple of years, with officers retiring or leaving for jobs with better-paying Bay Area agencies and the department scrambling to replace them, often with rookie officers.
He said once patrol has stabilized he would like to restore the Beat Health Unit, which dealt with nuisance properties and other quality-of-life issues.
Carroll said it costs Modesto about $125,000 annually for one officer, slightly more for a sergeant and about half of that amount for a community service officer. These costs are for salaries, benefits, pensions and other compensation. That means it could cost Modesto roughly $2.5 million annually to add 16 officers, three sergeants and four community service officers. (Carroll wants the CSOs because they handle routine matters, freeing up officers to do more police work.)
The city would not have to come up with all of the money during 2016-17 for the increased staffing. Carroll said it could take about two years to increase sworn staffing by 19 after factoring in other officers leaving the department. Brandvold and the 100-day budget review committee he appointed in March are finishing up their work in recommending to the council how the city can pay for more police staffing.
The funding probably will come from a mix of new revenue expected in the 2016-17 budget as well as redirecting existing spending throughout the city to public safety. The committee meets Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in Room 2005 at Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St. The meeting is open to the public.
IN OTHER CITY NEWS – The city has launched a smartphone app called Go Modesto. Staff members previewed it at last week’s budget hearings and it looked promising and easy to use. For instance, users can send in a photo to report a problem – such as graffiti, illegal dumping or a broken streetlight – and will be notified when the problem has been resolved. They also can sign up for city activities, check bus schedules and pay their utilities bill. The app replaces a system the city had been using called Comcate, which was clunky and hard to use. It cost the city about $25,800 for Go Modesto and about $18,000 annually to maintain it. Comcate cost the city about $30,000 a year.
▪ The staff also previewed at the hearings Modesto’s new website, which should debut in mid-June. It also looked promising and easy to use. It could be a huge improvement over the current website. The city is paying CivicPlus $63,000 to build the site and would pay the company about $11,000 annually to maintain it.
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316