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Current budget will expand ranks of Manteca Police to 73 officers
Manteca expects to physically have 73 policer offices on the job by mid-2019. - photo by Bulletin file photo

Making it clear that they believed the City of Manteca could ill afford not to hire as many police officers as they could possibly do while keeping municipal finances balanced; the City Council took steps Tuesday that will effectively increase the rank of police officers by almost 10 percent over authorized staffing levels that existed prior to June 30.

The council unanimously agreed to elevate two community resource officer positons to police officers while rejecting a staff recommendation that they forgo hiring the last of four new positions they created when adopting the current fiscal year budget in order to keep spending down.

The net result is Manteca will have 73 police officers by sometime in early 2019 as opposed to the 67 they had authorized last fiscal year. Three of those new positions have already been filled. Coupled with being able to backfill vacancies created by retirement that took months to fill due to the demand for police officers statewide as well as lengthy background checks, the department now has 70 officers working as opposed to 62 at one point earlier this year.

At the same time Police Chief Jodie Estarziau told the council no officers are expected to retire in the next 1½ years. That means with actual officers on the job as opposed to being simply authorized, Manteca will have 11 more officers working by mid-2019 and opposed to earlier this year. That would reflect a 17 percent increase in actual manpower.

The two community resource officers converted into police officers will continue to be assigned homeless duties and such just as other police officers are assigned as school resource officers.

The biggest change will be as officers they can handle anything that a police officer can. That isn’t the case currently.

“Maybe we save money,” Councilman Mike Morowit said of the staff recommendation, “but the main thing is we need more police officers.”

Morowit said residents were promised by the council there would be four new officer positions this budget year. He said taking two CROs that have been working the streets already in a somewhat restricted capacity and elevating them to police officers and taking away one of the four promised officers does not equal six law enforcement personnel.

“People are (demanding) more officers,” Councilman Gary Singh said. “They do not believe we have enough.”

Had the council opted to go with the staff recommendation to not hire a fourth new officer as outlined in the budget at mid-year and still elevated the two CRO positions, the city would save $5,000 this fiscal year.

Finance Director Jeri Tejeda noted Tuesday that hiring the position so what would be the city’s 73rd officer could be on the job in January would cost $75,000 more than budgeted this fiscal year for police personnel after the additional salaries, benefits, and pension costs of converting the two CROs to police officers is taken into account.

She said the city should have adequate funds in undesignated reserves to cover the tab. City Manager Tim Ogden said it is also likely that at mid-year expenses will be running lower than expected and revenue higher than anticipated.

Tejeda said her real concern is in subsequent years given the new police position and elevating the CROs will mean an additional $250,000 cost for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

She noted that the latest California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) investment return is worse than expected.  She added there are five salary steps for police officers that every time they reach the benchmark not only does their salary increase but so does the required contribution to CalPERS.

Councilman Richard Silverman, who noted he tends to be tight fisted fiscally, said he was confident with Manteca’s current economic status and new revenue sources coming on line such as the Great Wolf Lodge that in its initial year of operation is expected to generate $1.7 million for the city’s general fund that the city is in the position to handle the additional costs.

 The change of the classification of the two community resource officers is expected to eliminate the problem of retaining personnel. The second CRO hired this year after a 1½ year-long effort to fill the position had already applied to be a police officer.

The reason that is happening is simple. The training for a reserve police officer, which is what a CRO is basically, is no different than for a regular police officer. 

The first step of pay for a community resource officer is $27.55 versus and entry level police officer at $39.84 an hour despite the same training requirements. The community resource officer pay starts out at about $3 less an hour than for a community service officer (CSO) that does not carry guns and cannot do many of the enforcement actions a community resource officer is expected to do.

“As level I Reserve Police Officers they have the same powers, yet the (community resource officer) position (pays) significantly less than a sworn police officer position,” Estarziau noted in memo to the council.  “. . .   This was challenging to keep staffed and most if not all applicants who met the requirement were opting to apply for the sworn police officer position.  After this reclassification, they will be police officers and have the same pay, protections, and benefits.  They can also be utilized to cover shortages or handle other assignments police officers currently handle.”

The difference between the community resource officer and a police officer is $35,000 to $60,000 per year depending on CalPERS classifications as well as workmen’s compensation costs plus health insurance and other benefits.