This city and its residents care deeply about public safety. We take pride in knowing our streets are safe and our neighborhoods are protected. We also know our highly regarded police department deserves significant credit for everything they do to maintain public safety.
However, despite these facts, our city now faces a crisis within the police department: resources are stretched too thin and our department has been unable to reach critical goals as a result.
This isn’t an imagined crisis—we have data that reveal how limited our department truly is.
According to a recent San Diego Association of Governments report released this past December, Chula Vista ranks dead last relative to other cities throughout the county in per-capita funding for the most recent fiscal year.
Not only are we last, but our per-capita funding would need a 42 percent increase just to move into second-to-last place.
Per-capita funding isn’t the only statistic that reflects poorly upon our resource allocation. Chula Vista is also last when
it comes to the number of sworn officers per 1,000 residents.
Last year Chula Vista had only 0.93 officers per 1,000 residents—a decrease from the 1.07 we had four years ago.
Today we have less than 0.85 officers per 1,000 residents! By comparison, the region-wide average is 1.31 officers per 1,000 residents. The city of San Diego has 1.5 officers for every 1,000 residents.
The city has been aware of these issues for some time. In fact, a few months ago, we received a commissioned report from Matrix Consulting. The report pointed out the ways that the department was suffering from a staffing shortage, and provided some recommendations to the city.
The city council endorsed a Patrol Staffing Study Implementation Plan loosely conforming to a few of the Matrix Consulting Group report recommendations. They also provided the funding needed to begin implementing primary recommendations.
Specifically, the report called for an increase in “proactive time” for police officers. Proactive time is defined as the time available after officers perform their primary administrative responsibilities. Chula Vista officers currently have only about 22 percent proactive time. The recommended amount is 40 percent.
To resolve this shortage of proactive time, the city set staffing goals. Unfortunately, the city has been unable to fulfill these goals. Budgeted positions still remain unfilled. In fact, the total number of sworn officers has decreased since the report was released.
These staffing issues drastically increase the difficulty of keeping our community safe. Worse, these problems exist among a number of other circumstantial challenges.
To begin with, our police department already faces high rates of attrition. Many of our officers are considering fleeing Chula Vista to find better working condition opportunities in other cities or taking earlier retirements.
In addition, our city has seen a rising trend in the crime rate. This is an issue that has only been exacerbated by AB 109, Gov. Brown’s realignment scheme that transfers state-level prisoners to counties, often leading to early releases.
The result of this law has been a surge in the number of criminals within our communities.
In the wake of growing public concern regarding public safety within our schools, the department also anticipates a need to divert police resources toward school safety.
Sometime in the coming days, the city council will be holding a meeting that will include a discussion of this important issue. If you agree that police staffing needs to be a higher priority in Chula Vista, please attend this meeting, contact City Hall, and make sure your voice is heard.
Our primary duty is to keep our city’s streets and neighborhoods safe. Our police staffing must reflect this obligation.
Ramirez is a Chula Vista City Councilman.