Paso Robles police safe mode scrapped
June 14, 2012
By DANIEL BLACKBURN
A controversial limited response program initiated by the Paso Robles Police Department called “safe mode” has been discontinued.
“The ‘safety and service response level policy’ is no longer in effect,” acting Chief Robert Burton told CalCoastNews in an email this week.
Former Chief Lisa Solomon-Chitty and City Manager James App enacted a police department service reduction plan in January 2011 mandating that officers not respond to a long list of crimes during times the department is short-staffed. The policy was not announced to the public by officials, but was reported by CalCoastNews in February of this year.
Paso Robles had been operating under a reduced police presence for the past year, with stringent new policies requiring that officers not respond to reports of drug activity, driving under the influence, and incidents of vehicular hit and run, whenever the department was operating in “safety mode.”
During safety mode, only two patrol officers were available to take calls. Dispatchers would not send an officer to 18 different types of crimes, including battery that is not in progress, theft reports when a suspect is not in custody, drug activity, family disturbances, and DUI calls.
Despite the change in policy, department personnel numbers have not changed appreciably during the past 18 months.
According to police sources, one new hire — a police officer trainee — quit abruptly, reportedly after complaining about department policies and procedures.
“One of our police officer trainees did resign his position with the city,” Burton said. “The trainee did not indicate it was due to a perception of the department.”
Over the past three years under Solomon-Chitty, the department thinned considerably from an approved 46 sworn officers in 2007, to 28 officers today.
The department’s current personnel roster includes Capt. Burton, acting chief; two lieutenants; five sergeants; two detectives; 16 patrol officers; one patrol officer trainee; and six part-time reserve officers. Burton said city management has now approved a total of 32 sworn officers, and the department is actively seeking the new hires.
Addressing a variety of programs the department has recently abandoned, Burton said a full-time narcotics and gang officer is on his wish list, and will be assigned “as soon as adequate personnel” are in place.