June 21, 2024
Department operating with 25% fewer officers than budget allows.

The Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department was down more than 25% of its budgeted, sworn officers between January and June of this year and cashed in on significant overtime.

During that six-month period, the department billed for more than double the overtime than was budgeted for the fiscal year, costing a total of $509,983, Police Chief Jamie Field said in a mid-year review presented to the town council this week. The department recorded 1,090 additional hours of overtime compared to the same period last year.

The police department has mirrored a national trend of understaffing. A 2019 survey by the International Association of Chiefs of Police found “multiple social, political and economic forces,” were to blame, including generational differences, negative perceptions of police and a lengthy hiring process, CNN reported.

The Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department is budgeted for 39 officers and currently has 28 active, available and sworn staff. That number is down slightly from Field’s January report, which showed 30 active officers.

President Joe Biden’s visit in June stressed an already overworked police department, requiring an “all hands on deck” effort, Field said. The extreme weather the Bay Area saw at the start of the year also required more overtime from officers.

Biden’s visit required three operating radio channels, monitored by three to four dispatchers, full road closures that required “extensive pre-planning,” 10 Disaster Assistance Response volunteers and a full police department call in on the Juneteenth holiday.

“We were very honored to be part of the resources needed for that detail, but it did involve all hands on deck,” Field said.

Because of the lean team, the department has had to reassign traffic enforcement, investigative resources and specialty assignment personnel to the patrol division to maintain minimum staffing coverage.

“This requires changes in priorities and timelines for investigations, proactive traffic enforcement and community outreach activities,” the staff report read.

The department hired two trainees who graduated from the police academy Aug. 15. After a 16-week field training program, they will be sworn onto staff.

Of the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department’s sworn staff, seven officers are on protected leave and unavailable. The remaining 28 officers are divided among patrol shifts, investigations and administration.

Community service officers and reserve police officers were able to help the department, the former working 1,331 hours from January to June, and the latter working 299 hours.

The department is also low on 911 dispatchers, Field said. Five of the eight budgeted positions are filled, and one dispatcher is in training. The department supplemented with six per diem dispatchers who worked 897 hours during that six-month period.

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Field said the department has audited its recruitment and retention process and is offering $10,000 signing bonuses.

have not been impacted by the staffing shortages, Field said. The industry standard is to answer 95% of calls within the first 10 seconds. So far in 2023, 96.8% of calls have been answered within that time frame.

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