SAN JOSE (KRON) — The San Jose City council has approved an emergency action for its police department on Tuesday, according to KRON’s Rob Fladeboe.
The city council passed the action 10-1. This clears the way for the police chief to staff detectives to fill vacancies onto patrols.
This is being considered a policing emergency.
“Well, the fact that we have 348, 10-hour shifts a week projected that we will have to fill…for the September shift change, if we continue at that current pace, it’s over 8,000 10-hour shifts that we would have to fill, and ultimately, we felt in order to keep my officers safe and reduce…quite frankly…some of the fatigue, and also keep our community safe, that we needed to do this and do this quickly,” San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia said.
The plan is to reassign 47 detectives to patrols between now and Sept. 11, sources confirm to KRON. This would ease the mandatory overtime for some police.
San Jose city councilman Pierluigi Oliverio was the only person to vote no on this emergency action. He had suggested the city bring in the California Highway Patrol or the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, but that idea did not gain much traction. Sheriff Laurie Smith wrote a letter Tuesday to the city council saying that this idea is unrealistic in her view.
In the past 30 years the city has seen its population increase by 43 percent, but police staff numbers have only grown by nearly 1 percent, Garcia said during Tuesday’s council meeting.
As of Aug. 17, there are 1,109 sworn officers in the force but only 812 available due to personnel either on training, disability or on leave, Garcia said.
The number of police officers on patrol in San Jose has been so low, the only way to put more boots on the street is to declare an emergency.
The department needs at least 500 officers in the patrol division to serve the city, but it only has 413 officers available to fill the shifts, city employee relations director Jennifer Schembri said.
Currently, the department has 348 10-hour vacant shifts on a weekly basis despite officers working required overtime, union spokesman Tom Saggau said.
Police Chief Eddie Garcia had announced mandatory overtime for officers during a news conference in March when he said there were 252 10-hour shifts that needed to be filled.
“When it comes down to the human costs, quite frankly, the fatigue officers feel goes down to their morale and their families as well,” Garcia said.
Between March and this month, the department had to keep officers hours after their scheduled shift 1,400 times, 1,000 instances of which lasted six hours after they were set to clock out, Garcia said.
As a result, some San Jose police officers said they have had no choice but to camp out at work because of the demands of their job.
The department has taken multiple steps since 2010 to address the low workforce including reducing staff in bureaus and units and bringing in investigators to the job on their day off, according to Garcia.
“This Police Department did not throw its hands in the air and has been trying to patch these gaps,” Garcia said.
The department can’t redeploy 47 officers unless a shift rebid takes place, which requires a meet and confer process to occur with the city and San Jose Police Officers’ Association, city Employee Relations Director Jennifer Schembri said.
Under the state’s Meyers-Milias-Brown Act, the City Council can determine there’s an emergency that would allow the rebid to take place in time for the Sept. 11 shift change and have the meet and confer process with the union happen at a later time, Schembri said.
Former Mayor Tom McEnery and leaders from the police union were among the public speakers who emphasized that the council needed to determine there was an emergency and voiced their concerns surrounding public safety.
City Councilman Raul Peralez said during his time as a San Jose police officer two years ago he voluntarily worked a 10-hour shift every other week and recalled the conversations he had with other colleagues about how they were getting burnt out from the additional work.
The ultimate goal with Tuesday’s action was to keep officers and residents safe, Peralez said.
City Councilman Johnny Khamis was inclined to classify the emergency as an urgency that could’ve been avoided years ago and stressed the importance of rebuilding the police force.
Before casting the single dissenting vote, City Councilman Pierluigi Oliveiro said supporting the determination of an emergency wouldn’t create less overtime shifts.
An emergency is defined as an unexpected situation and in the Police Department’s case it wasn’t as observed in the staffing decline, with less than 500 officers available for patrol since 2012, Oliverio said.
The staffing shortages are in part due to Measure B passed by San Jose voters in 2012 that led many officers to leave over changes to their pension and retirement plans that was less competitive compared to other departments.
The city and its unions reached a settlement to replace Measure B late last year and are presenting their agreement to voters for approval in November as Measure F.
The settlement framework is expected to save the city $3 billion over the next 30 years and makes changes to Measure B including stopping the City Council from giving employees more benefits unless voters approve it, according to city officials.
“We’ve got to fix a serious police staffing shortage, and if the chief tells me he needs this declaration to help him fix it in the short run, we’ll do it,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement last week.
“This also underscores why we need to pass Measure F in November and restore our ability to hire more police officers,” Liccardo said last week.
There have been 35 homicides in the city so far in 2016.
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