Public safety services in Lincoln
Is there a problem with the current level of public safety services in the city of Lincoln? As a retired police chief from a Bay Area suburban community, I can tell you that the answer to that question is a definite “yes.”
Unfortunately, funding for additional police and fire personnel is based on a General Fund that is already constrained. So what do we do about this dilemma?
At present, we have two fire personnel reporting to an emergency when the recognized level for staffing is three. The police staffing is limited on most shifts to one sergeant and two police officers.
To further complicate these matters, we should have a minimum of two public safety dispatchers on duty at all times to assist with police and fire emergencies. The city currently needs to hire two more dispatchers in order to meet that staffing level.
Given the staffing deficiencies the city currently faces, it is clear to me that one of two things will happen.
Alternative Number 1 - do nothing
We can live on “borrowed time” and wait until some type of tragic situation occurs. It might be the death of a resident due to a poor public safety response or it might be the serious injury or death of a public safety employee due to the lack of cover or available resources. Either way, the event will have occurred because the community knew the problem existed but took no action to remedy the situation.
Alternative Number 2 – do something
If we agree that the current staffing situations are not adequate to meet our needs, we need to seek a revenue resource adequate to correct that situation for the future good of our community. Any fundraising measure is going to impact our pocketbook in some fashion. A financial remedy for this situation would probably require some type of action similar to that described here:
1. Formation of a citizen’s group representing a cross-section of our community dedicating itself to a proposal to correct the staffing deficiency.
2. Drafting a proposal for a community vote that will clearly outline how much revenue will be required for a given period of time and how the funds will be spent.
3. Provision for a panel of citizens to monitor revenues and expenditures to confirm that they are in accordance with citizen expectations. For example, funds raised for this purpose should not be used to provide for cost-of-living raises or for pension provisions.
In summary, both our police chief and our fire chief can confirm that there is no plan in place to correct the current understaffing conditions. We also have our Police Department operating in a facility that is undersized and woefully inadequate compared to that provided by our neighboring cities, Roseville and Rocklin. The time to look at addressing these inadequacies is now or we can take the easy road and wait until a community tragedy occurs.
Jim Datzman is a Lincoln resident.