Turlock Police Department Chief Robert Jackson spoke frankly about safety, criminal justice and law enforcement issues facing the City of Turlock during an informal “Coffee with the Chiefs” event held on Dec. 19 at the Turlock IHOP.
Jackson briefly delved into the future of law enforcement. He mentioned how drones or unmanned aerial vehicles could be used as an effective tool to combat static situations – such as suspect who has taken a hostage inside of a home. He of course weighed the many problems and liability issues that come with using UAVs, not only for law enforcement but also for the general population as a whole.
Moving into shaky footing, he spoke about the use of marijuana or medicinal marijuana. Jackson did not express any overt concern with marijuana as a medicinal product, however he did raise the question of “where does it go from here and where does it end?”
“The acceptance of marijuana has desensitized us (as a society). What is next – cocaine or meth?” he said.
Jackson noted that it would not surprise him if marijuana was legalized within the next five-to-ten years in California.
Aside from marijuana, the Chief discussed philosophical issues about law enforcement.
“I’ve been in this business for a long time, and over the years I’ve seen the pendulum switch from the three-strikes law to the current prison realignment. In the past year we (Turlock) have seen a five percent increase in crimes like burglary and theft,” he said. “Realignment has affected the quality of life in Turlock.
“With prison realignment it will affect the quality of life. Violent crime may go down, but you are going to see more and more of the petty type crimes,” he said.
Jackson indicated that the actual percent of theft and burglary is undoubtedly much higher than the occurrences reported to police. He says that many people who have a bicycle stolen, for example, will likely not report it.
“We want people to report it. If there are 10 bicycles stolen in your neighborhood and no one reports it, then how are we (TPD) supposed to know about it and allocate resources?” he said.
Jackson also discussed gun ownership. He supports responsible, legal gun ownership and has no problem with people arming themselves.
“Statistics have shown historically that communities with higher rates of gun owners are much safer. We (police) can’t be everywhere all the time. If you look historically at cities that have a lot of gun controls like Chicago or Washington D.C., you see much more gun violence,” he said.
From there, Jackson moved into school safety. He said TPD is actively engaging in drills with Turlock Unified School District to practice what to do in the event of a mass shooting.
“We review active shooter training and we work closely with the school district. We review the site safety plans for schools,” he said.
Overall, Jackson appeared pleased with Turlock as a community. But he never said that Turlock was perfect.
“All in all, we are in a pretty safe environment compared to larger cities,” he said.
According to Jackson his department is working harder than ever with fewer resources, yet still providing a safe community largely free of major violence.
He says that in the last two years TPD has been cut from 81 officers to 73, and that TPD lost a services officer and a crime analyst due to the expiration of specific grant to combat crime.
The next Coffee with the Chiefs will be announced in the coming weeks.
“I look forward to these, even if just a few people show up. I want people to know I’m accessible,” Jackson said.