Vallejo considers drastically changing police force

February 17, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
On the streets of a Bay Area city reinforcements have stepped in. Starting Wednesday night two Solano County Sheriff's deputies are on patrol in Vallejo.

They are needed to fill the gaps of a local police department gutted by budget cuts and a city scarred by a series of violent crimes. Vallejo may even merge its force with the sheriff's.

"There has been no talk about disbanding the police or merging," said Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis.

However, Vice Mayor Stephanie Gomes says merging with the Solano County Sheriff's Department is a serious option.

"We are looking into it. We have an initial proposal," said Gomes.

City leaders are scrambling for a solution since budget cuts have trimmed Vallejo's police force by 34 percent.

On Wednesday night, it had to borrow two sheriff's deputies to help patrol the city. The City of Vallejo is bankrupt and a contract it signed with the police officers union gives it a 7.5 percent raise this year.

"We don't have the monies to do that and if they end up taking the pay raise obviously we're going to have to cut police officers," said Davis.

"The city can't figure out how to fund the current agreements that they have. This is a perpetual problem in this city where they can't seem to find the revenue and they find the revenue from the employees," said Mat Mustard with the Vallejo Police Officer's Association.

Tolerance levels have been pushed to the limit in Vallejo after an ice cream vendor was shot in the chest, earlier this month. Police arrested a 15-year-old boy in that case.

Also, recently a group of teenagers mobbed and beat up a city public works employee which was caught on a surveillance camera.

Wednesday night about 130 citizens were at a meeting trying to help fill the void and end this recent crime wave.

The group was asked for some possible solutions and was encouraged to come together as a community.

One woman in the crowd said "Come in and volunteer. We need volunteers to come in and start those programs up."

And with fewer police officers, the Solano County Jail said there are now 17 to 20 percent fewer arrests than last year. Now the city could plunge into deeper trouble unless it and the union find middle ground.