The Turlock Police Department has one of the lowest rates of “cleared” violent crimes in the county and City Manager Roy Wasden is to blame, according to the Turlock police union.
California Department of Justice statistics show that Turlock police cleared just under 40 percent of reported violent crimes in the past decade, amongst the lowest in the county and region. A crime is cleared or solved when a suspect is arrested, charged and pursued for a conviction.
Violent crime includes homicide, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Five years ago, in 2009, TPD cleared 45 percent of violent crimes.
On Sunday Turlock Associated Police Officers, the local police union, posted the following statement to its Facebook page:
“Turlock Police Department has the lowest average of solved violent crimes in Stanislaus County. This is not acceptable, but to be expected when your city council cuts eight sworn positions in just three years. That amounts to two less detectives, elimination of the four officers assigned to the proactive Street Crimes Unit, and two patrol officers, at the direction of the City Manager Roy Wasden, who also led the Modesto Police Department when they had the lowest number of solved crimes in over 20 years! They must be satisfied with these numbers since they are doing nothing to get qualified people to apply with the City of Turlock.”
Both Wasden and Turlock Mayor John Lazar had no comment on the TAPO posting. TAPO President Russell Holeman did not return phone calls for comment.
During a previous Coffee with the Chiefs, Turlock Police Chief Robert Jackson spoke about concerns with staffing levels and how staffing affects police response to property crimes. He did not mention violent crime investigations and clearance rates, however he did speak about a possible fear that fewer detectives, gang unit and patrol officers could lead to higher incidents of vigilante justice and residents taking matters into their own hands.
Jackson was out of state and unavailable for comment.
At the request of TurlockCityNews.com, Turlock Police Capt. Carl Nielsen and his staff will look deeper into the violent crime clearance rate and examine variables such as prosecution, conviction and other factors. He cautioned that the public's perception of acceptable crime solving rates may differ from reality; though police always catch their suspect on popular television programs, the real world doesn't work that way.
However, TAPO posted that Turlock should dip into reserves to hire more officers and improve crime clearance rates.
“The general fund is what pays for police and fire personnel,” TAPO posted to its Facebook page. 'The City of Turlock has one of the largest general fund reserves in the State of California, yet the council and city manager refuse to take money out of this savings account to pay for more officers. The same general fund helps pay for the over $200,000 a year your City Manger and City Attorney each make.”
The general fund reserve holds just under $13 million, which represents 44 percent of the budget. The council previously directed Wasden to hold $6.5 million in that savings account as a hard reserve, with a further $2 million dedicated to equipment replacement.
The Turlock City Council approved $1.4 million in deficit spending as part of its 2014 budget, including $400,000 in additional firefighter and police overtime hours.
The council elected to fund extra overtime rather than hire four police officers and three firefighters at a substantial cost – $735,000. Those costs would continue to increase in the years to come, primarily due to benefits, potentially putting the city in a position to lay off workers.
“We do not want to be in a position where we have to lay people off,” Wasden said in June 2013. “We had to do that back in 2009 and we found that the costs were pretty significant.”
Wasden makes $218,437 per year in salary and $57,625 in total retirement and healthcare cost. City Attorney Phaedra Norton makes $201,995.
Jackson makes $158,790 and 19 other police officers make over $100,000 in salary. The vast majority of officers make between $60,00 and $90,000 annually.
The Turlock Police Department has approximately 123 full-time employees including dispatchers, clerks and community service officers.
Turlock Police Union Files Lawsuit Against City of Turlock