This isn't about pay, benefits or pension. It's about crime, disorder and your quality of life. The Chula Vista Police Officers’ Association (CVPOA) represents the 215 hardest-working police officers in San Diego County who patrol the woefully understaffed streets of your City. At last count, the Chula Vista Police Department is staffed at 0.85 officers per 1000 citizens. This is the fewest number of police officers per citizen in San Diego County.
Most of us don’t worry so much about being the victim of a murder or a robbery; however, it is realistic to think you may be the victim of a home burglary or a vehicle vandalism or theft. On a recent night, approximately 50 vehicles were vandalized in the neighborhoods surrounding Orange Avenue and Hilltop Drive. This recent incident brings me to the crux of our plea.
We at the CVPOA learned that after these vehicle vandalisms, members of the City Council received a higher than usual amount of calls about crime. Now, don’t get me wrong, I did not hear how the Councilmembers responded to their constituents concerns, but I can imagine the response was similar to, “Sorry to hear about that. Please call the Police Department and they will be happy to take a report.” At the CVPOA we ask, “Why?”
Why are the councilmembers who signed-off on City Manager Jim Sandoval’s budget that authorized 33 Police Officers lay-offs (resulting in four actual lay-offs) telling their constituents to call the Police Department? Is it the Police Officers fault that there are not enough personnel to adequately and safely staff and patrol your streets? Is it the Police Officers fault that they cannot proactively patrol your neighborhoods to prevent crime and disorder problems, such as speeding, vehicle vandalism or thefts? Of course the answer is an unequivocal, “No!”
So, rather than immediately refer their constituents to the Police Department regarding these crime and disorder issues, the courageous Councilmember should have told their constituents something along the lines of: “I must apologize to you Constituent. Myself and my colleagues on the Council have allowed staffing at the Police Department to be unnecessarily depleted to levels that no longer allow for extra patrols or crimes being adequately investigated. Constituent, I pledge to you, I will stop the smoke-and-mirror and budget shell games and will begin to actively work on increasing Police Officer staffing levels so there are enough Police in our City to assure you the quality of life I guaranteed you when you voted for me. Again, I apologize.” And, in closing, they will brag that they have authorized the Police Department to rehire (yes, rehire) the officers they recently laid-off at a cost of over $100,000 per officer to hire and train.
Chula Vistans, this year at the polls, you will have an opportunity to make a change at City Hall. Please know and understand what is at stake when casting your vote. Now, more than ever, your quality of life is at stake. Despite what Mayor Cox likes to tell you, crime and disorder in your City is on the rise. The only way to slow crime and disorder is through an increased and visible Police presence. This requires your City Council to direct the City Manager to draft a budget that will keep you safe. Choose the City Council candidate that will make decisions that need to be made and increase Police staffing to the levels required to keep you safe.
The hard-working police officers represented by the CVPOA take pride in their service to you. For years, they have worked in an understaffed agency and with inadequate resources required to provide you with the service you truly deserve. Please contact Mayor Cox, Councilmembers Aguilar, Bensoussan, Castaneda and Ramirez and City Management and demand to know why there are not enough Police Officers on your streets. Also, you can always contact the Chula Vista Police Officers’ Association at www.cvpoa.org to learn more about issues that impact your quality of life.
Stewart is the director of the Chula Vista Police Officers’ Association