It won’t be official until Council makes its decision on exactly how many sworn officers will be cut from the Mammoth Lakes Police Department, but, if Council stays its present course, MLPD Chief Dan Watson is putting plans in place for a reduction in force of seven officers. The reduction is part of the Town’s austerity measures in light of the recent $48.5 million settlement with Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition.
Either departed or soon to depart are officers John Mair, Jesse Gorham, Paul Robles, Marty Thompson (who is joining the Mono County Sheriffs Department) and Ron Gladding (who is joining the Bishop Police Department). Watson added that five other officers have applied for or are in process of applying for other jobs, though that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re leaving. “I expect that two or three might get picked up,” he said, “and also expect to be down those seven positions, assuming Council stays with its current plan.”
Gladding’s hire serves as an interesting contrast to Mammoth’s cutbacks. Recently the Bishop City Council approved the hiring of two officers, with a third potential hire in the offing, according to Watson. (See Vane’s story “Bishop Police Hiring” for more.)
“Every city and ski resort town is different; none have identical situations to Mammoth Lakes,” Watson explained. “Only part of Bishop is actually the City of Bishop. The greater Bishop area is patrolled by the Inyo Sheriffs.” The City of Bishop’s area and population are about half that of Mammoth, and the new hires will bring its total of sworn officers to about 14. “If the City police need assistance, they have the Sheriffs within minutes, and there is a California Highway Patrol station there.”
That station helps with pass through traffic from U.S. 395, which cuts right through the center of the city. Mammoth Lakes, Watson said, can have 35,000-40,000 people for three days at a time during its peak periods, though he added that the same could be said for Bishop during heavily attended events such as the Tri-County Fair, Mule Days and the Millpond Music Festival.
With the reduction in force comes the reality that there will have to be associated reduction in services. Watson made clear that none of the service reductions are final yet, and that he is still working on his plan. The plan so far calls for 10 sworn officers, of which seven would be on patrol. The Chief will also pitch in on some field duty. There will be one detective on staff and a sergeant to take care of administrative tasks needed to keep the MLPD running.
Some redcutions to levels of service are already emerging as highly likely. “We won’t be as present in the Village,” Watson cited as an example. “We will respond to calls, but won’t have the same presence. My suggestion to them was beefing up the private security the Village already uses.”
Patrols will have some gaps in service as well. Watson said there would be no more than two officers on patrol and at any given time, and during certain portions of the night, probably none on the streets. “There will be a period of time during the night (yet to be determined) during which there will be no patrol,” he indicated. “An officer will be available on call, but it will be a delayed response.”
In terms of traffic reports, Watson said that unless there are injuries, a hit and run, or a DUI, there is no reason to take a traffic report. “We will try to respond to a collision and take reports if asked and able to do them, but there won’t be an obligation on our part.”
Watson pointed out that the trend has been to move away from doing those types of things, and leaving them to insurance companies. Indeed, Los Angeles stopped taking reports more than 30 years ago in 1980.
The MLPD will no longer take in stray dogs until claimed; they are to be taken directly to the Whitmore Shelter on Green Church Road. Dog registration and tag services will continue at the front office.
Party house and noise disturbance calls might be on delayed response, or not responded to at all.
“People are going to see at least delays for some of those nuisance calls,” Watson said. “Public safety will always take precedence over those types of complaints.”
The less drastic the cuts from Council the better, the Chief advised, but in any case levels of service will not be what they were. Watson said he is meeting with the BPD, and Inyo and Mono County sheriffs to “work out arrangements to hire their personnel on an overtime basis” as needed.
Expect Watson’s formal plan to be submitted to Council following passage of its austerity plan on Dec. 5. The cuts formally take effect July 1, 2013, and Watson said he will likely phase in his plans starting Jan. 1, 2013.