City Council to address ‘chronic understaffing’ at South Lake Tahoe Police Department |

City Council to address ‘chronic understaffing’ at South Lake Tahoe Police Department

A close-up photo of police lights by night
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

City Council will consider several proposed expenditures at its meeting Tuesday night, including the creation of two new positions within the city’s police department.

The proposal, according to a staff report, is intended to address “chronic understaffing” among the officer ranks. The situation, which is attributed to continual turnover and attrition, makes it difficult to maintain a sufficient presence in the field.

It also reduces patrol effectiveness and increases response time and overtime expenses.

“The net effect is decreased Police service quality, and the proposed new positions are aimed at enabling the Police Department to maintain a full complement of sworn officers out in the SLT community,” states the staff report.

Staffing issues reached a critical level in the summer and fall of 2018 when three officers left to work for other agencies and two other officers were sidelined due to injuries suffered while responding to a fight call.

During the 91 days of summer that year, a total of 8,973 calls were made. Of those, an officer was unavailable for 196 calls, according to the staff report.

The department currently has 30 police officer positions, although it has rarely ever been fully staffed in recent years. Currently eight of those positions are unavailable for full, independent duties.

The hiring process to bring officers on board is lengthy and it’s not uncommon to lose officers while new ones are being hired. Increasing the total size of the officer staff would allow the department to try and hire more officers at one time.

The expected cost for the two new positions for the rest of the 2018-19 fiscal year, which runs through September, is estimated to cost $93,590. Going forward, the annual cost is expected to total approximately $280,000.

As the staff report notes, a portion of that cost — approximately $80,000 — could be recovered by money saved on overtime.

In 2017-18 the department spent $524,988 on overtime. For the current fiscal year through May 19, the department has spent $465,801 on overtime.

Staff estimates an additional $100,000 can be absorbed by salary savings due to injuries, retirements and/or resignations. The remaining $100,000 would be an additional ongoing expense within the department’s budget each year.

Other notable agenda items include:

  • Authorize the purchase of a $1.2 million fire ladder truck from Pierce Manufacturing.
  • Execute a purchase agreement for $1.5 million in snow removal equipment.
  • A resolution authorizing city staff to submit a grant application for planning Housing Program Initiatives.

Click here to view the agenda.

The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 21, in council chambers at 1901 Airport Road.

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