It’s encouraging news that the City Council signed off on a plan to recruit two new police officers Monday as positions are vacated. Still, the vote included a disturbing clause that would allow the Council to suspend the recruitment process if the budget problems facing the city become too onerous.

But first the good news.

The Hollister Police Department – which has about half the recommended number of officers for a town this size – got the OK to search for fresh officers. The new officers will replace two who are expected to retire soon and won’t add to the total number of officers in the department. But, in this case, there will be a gain in productivity in the detective’s bureau and on the streets, according to Police Chief Jeff Miller.

The two officers that are retiring have been injured and can’t help on patrol. When they retire, the Hollister Police Department will be able to plug in healthy officers to work the streets. It also will mean the police can transfer a third experienced officer to the detective bureau where two detectives are sinking under a massive load of 1,000 backlogged cases, Miller said.

In addition, Councilman Tony LoBue said the additional officers may help ease a whopping $300,000 overtime bill that Miller requested in budget hearings just last week.

In this time of budget strife, the Council could have voted to freeze the positions, but it made the right decision to go ahead with the search.

Still, the Council included a troubling caveat – if the budget gets too bad, they could suspend the search. We agree that the Council needs to have such an option, but there are better places to save money than sacrificing public safety.

Instead of freezing the police department in such an instance, we say the Council should revisit it’s decision to not layoff 12 city hall workers. We don’t want anyone to lose their jobs, but in a budget crunch, public safety must come first. It’s one of the primary functions of a city.

When the Council was faced with a layoff decision earlier this month, we asked the members to make public safety the top priority when considering what positions to cut. Instead, the Council caved to pressure from the unions and kept all 12 employees that were on the layoff list.

That decision will cost Hollister $534,000 in the coming fiscal year.

It’s ridiculous to take on that kind of burden then tell the police department – which has hundreds of crimes going unsolved – that if times get too tough financially, the recruitment process could be put on hold.

Council members need to review their priorities and put public safety at the top.

To respond to this editorial or comment on this issue, please send or bring letters to Editor, Hollister Free Lance, 350 Sixth St., Hollister, Calif. 95023 or fax to 637-4104 or e-mail to [email protected]

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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