Police Chief Jeff Atkinson outlines plans for future
One of the major issues Atkinson said is the ongoing recruitment and training of new officers.
“Recruitment will always be an issue for us,” Atkinson said. “Truly it will be an issue forever as far as I can see.”
He brought up the example of two police officers who were trained at the department, one a detective. He said both were technically competent, solid employees, who both took off in a matter of weeks after becoming proficient. Atkinson said in both cases, the employees left strictly because of money.
Atkinson said this is one of the main reasons why it is so hard to keep officers in Lassen County. He said officers who come up through his ranks, complete their training and gain experience through the department can easily be enticed to larger police forces because of higher salaries and smaller workload.
“We will try to do a better job of recruiting,” Atkinson said. “But that is our lot in life unfortunately, to always be recruiting.”
Atkinson mentioned how sometimes non sworn staffing positions were also hard to fill, but completely necessary. He said he would like to see sworn police officers reduce their duties in non emergency capacities, such as filling out reports for insurance companies or counseling people involved in domestic disputes.
One of the ideas Atkinson said he would like to see expanded is the possibility of creating a cadet training program, possibly through partnership with the college. One of his officers suggested having students from the college come into the department for around 20 hours a week to receive training from members of his staff, better preparing them for a police academy or a volunteer program in the county.
Vehicles and equipment
The other major issue Atkinson told the council was the department’s vehicles and equipment. Car radios more than 10 years old, a vehicle fleet with an average of almost 70,000 miles per car and a few small building issues were things he said he wanted to address as the need arises.
“We’ve been recycling equipment for a long time,” Atkinson said. “It’s going to catch up with us before long, and we need to replace some of our stuff on a regular basis.”
Atkinson said it’s unfortunate how expensive some of the equipment has become over the years. He said a typical new police cruiser could cost around $40,000 after being fully upgraded, including an $1,800-$2,000 car radio in each car.
He would also like to upgrade the records management system, which he said hasn’t been properly updated since 1986. For the time being Atkinson said the current database works fine for the department, but he would like to see it fixed in the future.
The final issue Atkinson brought up was the hit the department was about to take involving funding. He explained how every year the department received $100,000 from the Citizens and Officers for Public Safety grant.
“Due to the fiscal crisis within our state, there’s a possibility they are going to take all that back,” Atkinson said. “While many police stations use that money for a broad variety of things, to us, that means another sergeant. That concerns me. I hope we don’t go there, but there is a possibility.”
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