A week ago, Ingrid Braun, the Sheriff- Coroner for Mono County gave a presentation to the Mono County Board of Supervisors regarding possible police reform through the lens of a campaign called ‘8 can’t wait.’
8 can’t wait is a set of eight protocols that will supposedly limit the number of deadly interactions between police and civilians.
During the presentation, Braun stressed California’s already progressive policies pertinent to training. She mentioned an interest in a citizens advisory council and a continued emphasis on training.
Mammoth Lakes Chief of Police Al Davis agreed. “California is and has been leading the country in training,” Davis told The Sheet, “Training requirements here pretty much exceed anything I am aware of.”
Davis quickly touched on California’s POST program or “Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.”
Essentially POST provides regulated protocol that requires police officers in the State of California to participate in ongoing education, constantly changing information, and 24-hours of training every two years.
The Sheet asked Davis if he would be open to reform. His response: “[POST] is reform. It changes all the time. But we are open to other changes as well. We don’t push back against reform.”
The current state of the relationship between citizens and police departments nationwide is somewhere between contention and disdain.
That is not the case in Mammoth Lakes, “If anything, the community has been more appreciative of us,” said Davis.
Davis told The Sheet the department has been receiving phone calls every week from citizens who want to voice their support. Additionally, Davis cited the peaceful ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest that he said went really well.
“In my 5.5 years here (as Police Chief), we have completely changed the culture of the police department in Mammoth Lakes,” said Davis, “A lot of that is just us being in the community and interacting with the residents here.”
Davis called it community policing and said that the department simply attempts to do whatever it can to help the Town.
Still, the nationwide sentiment is at least tangentially connected to defunding. The movement acknowledges that this looks different everywhere in the United States. The TOML police reform/ defunding measures would be drastically different from a city like Los Angeles.
What do the finances look like for Mammoth Lakes?
The operating budget of the Mammoth Lakes Police Department for Fiscal Year 2020-21 is $4.6 million. Last year it was about $4.5 million. Chief Davis explained what this means for his department.
“Almost 84% of our budget is personnel costs. This year we have an operating budget of about $700,000. $405,000 of that budget is for dispatch services,” said Davis.
This leaves about $300,000 for things like uniforms, car repairs, office supplies, and training. “This year we are cutting back. If there are training programs, such as a detective course, we normally would like to send someone so they can get the extra training. This year that won’t be happening,” said Davis.
To go back to the budget from earlier… Statistically the average police budget has hovered around 4% of total state and local expenditures according to the US Census Bureau. The modified TOML 2019-20 budget listed total expenditures of $29 million as well as the aforementioned $4.5 million police budget. That puts the percentage around 15%. This is high but because it is California, officers need to be paid more. Places with a lower cost of living have relatively smaller police budgets.
If the Town of Mammoth Lakes wants to defund the police and put money elsewhere it would have to pay officers less money. Or reduce the amount of officers. Firing officers seems unlikely considering the Town, as of last year, finally has 24/7 police coverage.
Davis explained why 24/7 coverage matters and is likely here to stay. “It only takes one incident for that coverage to be worth it. It was huge for us to get that.”
So budget changes would have to come in the form of salary reductions. The rest of the budget is razor thin.
As Davis mentioned earlier, 84% of the TOML police department’s budget is spent on personnel. For comparison, in Los Angeles that number is 94%. In Bishop, that number is between 92-94%.
The FY 2020-21 adopted budget allocated $4.6 million to the police department. $1.8 million is paid out as regular salaries. Between leave programs and overtime/ temporary wages, the department spends about $300,000. Health insurance premiums cost about $450,000 a year. Then the PERS retirement fund eats up over $1.1 million. There are other minor payments made, but that is the bulk of it. 84% of the budget essentially going towards salaries, insurance, and retirement payments.
This week The Sheet received an anonymous tip that the TOML police department was removing dash cams from its vehicles.
Chief Davis answered this easily, “In my mind it was redundant. We got body cams six years ago and the dash cams need to be updated every couple of years. I felt we didn’t need both.”
Davis also mentioned the high server costs associated with all of these different cameras. Legally police departments have to keep the film for up to two years just in case they need to be accessed. The cost was not worth it.