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Lincoln’s police staffing ranked among worst in state

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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The 65 residents at Tuesday night’s city-budget workshop were given a snapshot of how poorly the Lincoln Police Department staffing rates compared to most police departments in the state. A staffing survey of 178 California police departments done in 2009 by California Police Chief’s Association, according to acting Police Chief Paul Shelgren, ranks Lincoln on the bottom 175 out of 178 departments. Compared to Lincoln’s .76 officers per thousand residents, Roseville has 1.12 officer per thousand and Rocklin has .95 per thousand residents, according to Shelgren A look at possible reductions to the police department due to the $2 million gap in the General Fund between revenues and expenditures was also given at Tuesday’s workshop. Lincoln City Manager Jim Estep answered some of the top public-safety questions received in the past few months before acting Police Chief Paul Shelgren presented the police department’s budget. One question asked by the public related to the standard level of police staffing for a city of Lincoln’s size. The nationwide standard is 2 police officers for every 1,000 residents, according to Estep. California’s standard is 1.5 officers per 1,000 residents, and Lincoln had 1.2 officers per 1,000 residents in 2007, according to Estep. This year, Lincoln has .76 officers per 1,000 residents. Estep also said “the most common comment received (from residents) is to reduce employee salaries and benefits in Lincoln.” In relation to the police department, Estep said, officers “tentatively agreed to salary and benefit concessions for 2010-2011.” Those concessions include no cost-of-living adjustments and merit increases, according to Estep, and employees paying 9 percent of their Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) benefits, which is currently paid by the city. According to Tuesday’s budget summary by Shelgren, salaries will increase by 6 percent and benefits will decrease by 6 percent. Shelgren told The News Messenger Wednesday this is because officers will pay 9 percent of their PERS benefits, which will be automatically deducted from their paychecks, instead of taking the 4.8 percent salary reductions that they took last year, Shelgren discussed possible changes to the support-services budget that include a $26,800 reduction for training due to in-house training and an $8,000 reduction for travel and meetings. Support services is responsible for tasks such as conducting criminal investigations and maintaining “critical departmental records,” Shelgren said. For the police department’s operating costs, the total proposed budget cuts are $500,428, which is a 29 percent decrease for operating costs. The operations budget includes youth services and police officers. Possible reductions to operations include loss of the community services officer, youth services officer, traffic officer and patrol officer. Shelgren said Wednesday that it’s unknown how many patrol officers could lose their jobs due to budget cuts. It won’t be known, Shelgren said, until the city receives its revenue report and the final city budget is put together. Ten-year resident Phil Brelje told City Council and staff Tuesday that the police department is “beginning to be a reactive agency.” “As crime occurs, they respond to it and can’t prevent crime and track down gangs,” Brelje said. “We need to keep officers on the street to be proactive.” Jim Macauley also addressed the council and staff, introducing himself as a Lincoln resident, before correcting himself and saying he is a Newcastle resident. Macauley is active in Team Lincoln and the Lincoln Tea Party Patriots. “Everyone is grateful to the Police Officers Association’s efforts that have been made to reduce costs,” Macauley said. “Granted, the changes are welcome and need to happen, but if I were advising from a consultant position, I would say look at cost per employees.” Macauley suggested police salaries be reduced to help balance the budget. After the meeting, The News Messenger talked to Steve Krueger, a youth services officer for the city of Lincoln. “(The budget) seems reasonable but I think there are still a lot of unknowns,” Krueger said. “Everyone knows there has to be give and take on both sides.” When asked what the possible loss of a youth services officer would do for Lincoln, Krueger said it would affect prevention efforts with youth when it comes to interacting with youth and preventing crime.