San Jose City Council Votes 10-1 For State of Emergency Addressing Police Staffing Crisis - NBC Bay Area
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San Jose City Council Votes 10-1 For State of Emergency Addressing Police Staffing Crisis

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    The San Jose City Council on Tuesday voted 10-1 to declare a state of emergency to address the city's severely understaffed police department. Chuck Coppola reports. (Published Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016)

    The San Jose City Council on Tuesday voted 10-1 to declare a state of emergency to address the city's severely understaffed police department.

    That declaration allows police Chief Eddie Garcia to have more leeway in reassigning officers for various shifts, a short-term solution to a problem plaguing the department for months.

    "I'm very happy," Garcia said about the vote. "Well, maybe happy isn't the right way to put it. This is not the choice I wanted to make, frankly. But it's the choice I had to make."

    Garcia said he needs to redeploy 47 cops not to solve the problem but just to make overtime adjustments manageable.

    "In order to keep my officers safe and reduce, quite frankly, some of the fatigue," Garcia said. "And also keep our community safe. We needed to do this and do it quickly."

    The chief got support from many residents who said they don't feel safe and a crucial endorsement from the San Jose Police Officers Association.

    "What number of officers does our department have to reach before it is an emergency?" said Paul Kelly, the police union vice president.

    "We still have to move forward and find a long-term solution and hammer that out at the table," Kelly added.

    This week, City Manager Norberto Duenas wrote the council, describing the "unprecedented low staffing levels" in the patrol division.

    Duenas told the council that the department is redeploying 47 police officers from other beats to work patrol. He told the council "an immediate shift rebid is necessary" before Sept. 11. He also said that the police union acknowledged that the current staffing levels "create an emergency sufficient to justify delaying" the traditional protocol.

    As of this week, the police department has 1,109 full-time budgeted positions, and only 919 positions are filled. But because of people out on disability and other leaves, just 812 actual full-duty sworn officers are ready to work and are considered "street ready," Duenas wrote.

    In addition, police have determined that a minimum of 500 officers are needed to staff beats in the patrol division, and there were only 413 officers available to work their shifts.

    NBC Bay Area received an email this week blasted to all officers early Saturday morning that clamored for assistance. The email requested that any personnel free to work call in and help fill day shift holes for 11 officer and four sergeant positions.

    Later on Saturday morning, another email stated that the department was short 10 positions for swing shift assignments and again requested that any available officers call in and sign up for a shift if possible.

    "We've got a serious shortfall right now in police officers out on patrol," Mayor Sam Liccardo said on Saturday. Liccardo said that the emergency action plan will only act as a "band-aid" fix for the department's staffing problem, but he pledges to work with Garcia in coming up with solutions.

    Garcia told NBC Bay Area in a previous interview that he worried about the depleted state of his department and fatigue of his officers.

    "Our officers are tired," Garcia said. "They're out there doing an amazing job, but they can only do so much."

    Liccardo called for voters to support Measure F, which he says will restore the state of the police department and place more officers on the streets if backed during the November election.

    Everyone involved Tuesday, including dissenting vote Pierluigi Oliverio, acknowledged long-term problems such as recruiting need to be addressed. And Oliverio was even concerned what impact the current move will have.

    "We have a special unit on child porn, and I’m not comfortable transferring someone from that division," Oliverio said.

    Meanwhile, the short-term fix passed by the council Tuesday will go into effect at the shift change on Sept. 11.

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