Santa Clara Co. offers mutual aid to San Jose police

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies already cover a large part of the region. But they may be adding San Jose streets to their beats. It's a plan devised by a county supervisor, who happens to be running for San Jose mayor.

San Jose has seen its police force drop by more than 400 officers due to budget cuts and voter-approved pension reform. The result has been a near doubling of response time for non-life threatening calls for help from 11 to 20 minutes. Or even no response at all.

"I had my mail stolen the week before last," said Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese. "I called the police department. They can't respond, so just to get basic response back, I think this makes a lot of sense."

That's why he's talking about having sheriff's deputies being assigned to help patrol San Jose and perform other police functions.

"I think that would be in detectives, in solving crimes, in helping to lock up burglars and other criminals that are producing theft crimes right now, and that's an area that San Jose is almost completely anemic," Supervisor Cortese said.

The idea will go before the board of supervisors Tuesday. If approved, Sheriff Laurie Smith would develop a feasibility plan. Reaction from city councilmembers has been positive.

"The neighbors, our communities, they know what's going on in terms of the increasing theft, what have you," San Jose City Councilmember Ash Kalra said. "If we can have a few more bodies out there with badges, that would be a good thing."

Jim Unlund, the president of the Police Officers Association, sees the plan as a temporary measure until police staffing can be increased.

"Understand it's only a short-term fix in that even if the sheriffs were doing this on overtime, they can only do it for so long before they get burnt out as well," he said.

Councilmember Rose Herrera is looking for a longer-range solution, including an amendment to the pension reform measure, which triggered the exodus of officers.

"If we can tweak it to allow Tier 1 officers, street-ready officers who left, to come back under Tier 1, we need to do that," she said. "And that would require a voter change, a ballot change, a ballot measure, but I support that."

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