More cops proposed for city because of growth

Hollister is looking for a new police chief, to replace retiring David Westrick who retires at the end of this month.

Greeting the new chief will be a sobering consultant report delivered to the city council last month that recommends a nearly 80 percent increase in officers: 11 new officers with an initial annual price tag of $1.8 million.

Jonathan Ingram of Novak Consulting Group, accompanied by former Gilroy Police Chief Denise Sellers, told the council that the additional officers are necessary to meet national standards established by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

The Novak firm was hired “to identify opportunities for improved efficiency and effectiveness,” Ingram said. Topping the list of questions he addressed: Is police staffing adequate for city growth?

His short answer was, “No.”

Ingram reported to the council Nov. 18 that there is “a high level of employee satisfaction and morale” in the Hollister Police Department.

He said that while the city has a commitment to “community policing,” it has “no clearly articulated proactive policing policy,”  and inadequate staffing to achieve its goals.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police has defined an effective use of patrol officers’ time at one-third administrative, one-third patrol, one-third community relations, said Ingram.

“You are not staffed to do this at this time,” he said.

For example, he said Hollister officers have to spend time providing animal control services for the county, and they handle all investigative work for property crimes, which Ingram said is “relatively uncommon.”

He also said the 14 Hollister officers don’t provide necessary backup for vacation and sick time, resulting in $420,000 in overtime payments so far in 2019.

Novak said 11 new officers—one detective, 8 patrol officers, one sergeant and one property/evidence officer—are needed in Hollister.

He also recommended the city consider a more flexible alternative to its current 12-hour shift schedule and that it needed a minimum of  five new officers. Shifting to a mix of 10- and 12-hour shifts could reduce overtime costs and provide more officers on busy weekend nights, he said.

He reported that city traffic offenses have nearly doubled in five years. The city this year hired two new traffic officers to respond to this trend.

Ingram told the council the city needs to take some investigative duties from patrol officers, and add one more detective for property crimes.

More officers can mean more paperwork, and Ingram recommended adding an officer to the records unit and upgrading its computers systems for police records.

As long the city contracts with the county to provide animal control services, it needs to hire one additional animal control officer, he said.

Westrick told the council he agreed with the national standards, and said his department will look at the report.

“They need more people,” Councilmember Carol Lenoir said of the police department. “I wouldn’t mind using some added funds” from increasing sales tax revenues for hiring new officers, she said.    

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