Clovis

Facing police staffing shortage, Clovis OKs committee to study fixes

With staffing levels below where they were in the mid-2000s, Clovis is forming a citizens advisory committee to evaluate the city’s police officer workforce, repeating the process the city took over a decade ago to address similar concerns.

The council first established a citizens advisory committee in 2007 after conducting workshops regarding future funding for police, fire, street maintenance and park maintenance services.

Ultimately, the process resulted in the city council proposing a one cent sales tax for ten years and a three quarters of a cent thereafter to cover a multitude of city services expenses, but voters shot it down by a 68-32 margin.

During Monday’s city council meeting, Councilwoman Lynne Ashbeck – who was on the council at the time – explained that the committee actually recommended a $0.25 sales tax for seven years, and the council was confident in proposing a larger tax.

But the 2008 recession hit, and the good polling numbers for the committee’s recommendation did not translate to the council’s proposal.

Come to present day, police staffing levels have not rebounded from the Great Recession, leading former police chief Matt Basgall to request that the council form another committee.

According to a letter from Basgall to the city council, the Clovis Police Department was authorized to have 116 officers in 2007-2008 and maintain a ratio of 1.3 officers per 1,000 residents.

But the recession saw the officer workforce shrunk to 91, and the city has only rebounded to 109 officers this year. 

That makes for a ratio of 0.87 officers per 1,000 residents given Clovis’ population of 125,000 residents.

“Since the Police Department relies solely on the general fund the staffing is at the mercy of those revenues. Over the past 13 years we have seen a recession, increase in retirement costs and COVID dramatically impact the police department’s ability to grow with the city. The question is what will be the next thing that impacts the city and public safety,” Basgall wrote.

“Clovis Police Department has always prided itself on its community support and being a full-service department. With the current environment these commitments are strained and becoming unreasonable to meet. The Police Department relies on volunteers for muni-code enforcement. However with COVID many volunteers have chosen to not return to the PD.” 

The committee will consist of 25 Clovis residents, with each councilmember making five appointments. Last time the committee totaled 15 members.

“The scope is going to be to look at PD using the staffing study that was presented as the starting point, not necessarily doing any more studies, not contracting for additional studies, but looking at that, other information as necessary to determine what’s it going to take to be the safest city in the Valley as far as PD goes, staffing programs, etc.,” outgoing city manager Luke Serpa said. 

Serpa said the committee will also take a hard look at the analysis of department spending patterns. 

Currently the department is in the process of completing a study which examines the needs of the department, and those results will be sent to the council. 

The Clovis Police Officers Association has also agreed to fund a survey for Clovis residents regarding public safety funding and their desires and expectations for the department. 

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.