Police department fully staffed for the first time | SierraSun.com

Police department fully staffed for the first time

Photo by Ryan Salm/Sierra Sun

For the first time since its inception in 2001, the Truckee Police Department is about to be fully staffed, an accomplishment that has been no easy feat.

“We recognized the need when we were only putting one officer and one supervisor on the streets at night,” said Police Chief Scott Berry. “The detectives presently have an open case load of over 50 active cases. They have worked over 250 cases [in the past year], mostly felony cases including follow-up from patrol.”

As of March 15, the Truckee Police Department will boast a total of 25 sworn officers, up from 17 in August.

“Costs of living for officers has been creating a struggle,” Berry said. “We lost quite a few people at the start of this fiscal year to retirement and other agencies, but we picked up some real quality men and women for this department.”

But does a town of approximately 15,000 need a $4.4 million police department with two dozen cops? That’s one officer per 612 residents, and more than one-third of the town’s general fund.

Berry said he thinks so, and so did Truckee Town Manager Tony Lashbrook, who noted that while Truckee itself spreads just 34 square miles, there are more than 150 miles of town roadway to be patrolled ” 60 miles in Tahoe Donner alone.

“In terms of public sentiment, there is always the balance of over-regulating and under-regulating, and very rarely is there agreement on that issue. It’s all a matter of perception,” Lashbrook said. “But if you are at home in your house at 3 a.m. and someone is trying to break in, if you dial 9-1-1, you expect someone to be there quickly.”

At 25 officers, the staffing level at the police department is not dissimilar to the number of Nevada County sheriff’s deputies who previously patrolled the area, said Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal.

“At that point in time, the staff available did a good job at managing their case load,”

Royal said, but he was also quick to point out that in the past five years there has been a notable increase in the number of drug and domestic violence calls because there is more public awareness.

There are also new mandates that require law enforcement to report all domestic disputes, no matter how mild.

To determine the size of the police force, the town looks at its territory, the number of officers who need to be on a shift at one time ” three or four ” visitor numbers and population, Lashbrook said.

“We had over 6,196 calls for service in 2005,” Berry said. “As calls increase our officer availability decreases, and that continues to be an issue that we monitor.”

And while Berry maintained that the primary focus for the department is community service, he said the biggest concerns for officers are traffic, drugs and domestic violence.

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