Hiring more officers is common goal for Sacramento County law enforcement agencies

Sacramento County law enforcement agencies spent the week lobbying elected officials for increased budgets to implement expansive strategic plans.

Sacramento police Chief Samuel Somers Jr. appeared before the city council on Tuesday to pitch a $3.8 million spending increase for the upcoming spending year.

According to the proposal, which was heard after SN&R’s print deadline, Somers asked the council to boost his budget 2.5 percent to $125.2 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1. That includes $1 million to create a hiring pipeline intended on bringing teens and young adults onto a force that is overwhelmingly white and male. Of the 25 new full-time-equivalent positions Somers wants to create, 22.5 would be used to employ these young people on a part-time basis.

The department has made hiring more women and minorities a goal of its employment plan.

This proposal comes at a pitched time for law enforcement agencies around the country. An accumulating number of use of force incidents involving unarmed black males has cast its shadow over Sacramento, and resulted in fiery rebukes during city council meetings.

City resident and department critic Laura Rubalcaba doesn’t support the plan to hire young officers, saying their youth and lack of experience makes them more prone to mistakes.

“I would like our police department to recruit a mix of ages to best serve the needs of our community,” she wrote via email before Tuesday’s meeting. “Perhaps [there] should be a minimum age for someone to carry the power of life and death in the name of our community.”

Yet, as the economy recovers, allowing years-long hiring freezes to thaw and veteran personnel to retire, it’s inevitable that the ranks of sworn officers will trend younger in the coming years.

The department also proposed a new multi-day training course on implicit bias and is pilot-testing body cameras.

Also on Tuesday, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors hosted a workshop with budgetary implications for the sheriff’s department, district attorney’s office and probation department.

In their PowerPoint presentation, sheriff’s officials on Tuesday said one of their current successes was an improved relationship with the community.

That message was conflicted a bit later in the presentation, which blamed a post-2008 decrease in staffing levels for the resulting disconnect between the community and law enforcement.

One measureable indicator, however, is the continued increase in response times, especially to what department labels priority 3, 4 and 5 calls for service, which can range from crimes as serious as rape and home invasion to something as comparitively benign as indecent exposure.

Last year, the average response time to priority 3 and 4 calls in the unincorporated county was 25:20. In 2011, the average response time was under 18 minutes.

Emergency calls actually dropped slightly last year by 1,352 to 161,694 calls. The department did experience slight increases in homicides, rapes, aggravated assaults and motor vehicle theft last year compared to 2013.

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