The word coming out of City Hall is now apparently changing, and as such it is quickly becoming even more difficult than usual to figure out exactly what the real situation might be. As a review, here is the message that was put out by the city on its website back around January 22nd (link):
(Mod: This "Temporary Contract" article has since been pulled from the City of Sierra Madre website. You can still find it by clicking here. Upper right hand corner.)
Pretty dire, right? "Staffing levels within the Sierra Madre Police Department (SMPD) have reached a level where there are insufficient personnel to provide safe and reliable police services twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week."
Yesterday the Pasadena Star News published an article called "Arcadia to Sierra Madre: Sorry, we can’t help fill police department void" (link). For this article they interviewed Sierra Madre Mayor John Capoccia extensively, and here is how this report concludes:
(Arcadia) Councilman Roger Chandler agreed that sharing resources would be a bad idea. “I know we’re neighbors, and it would be nice to help, but this doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
Sierra Madre Mayor John Capoccia said he was disappointed, but he understood the city officials’ position. “Our next step is to look at other options,” he said.
Chandler recommended Sierra Madre officials reach out to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for assistance.
Since there was a draft agreement with Arcadia in place, Capoccia said the city did not look into contracting with other cities or the Sheriff’s Department before last night’s meeting.
“Arcadia was the natural first choice for several reasons,” he said. “If there is a need, the sheriff’s will come,” he continued. “It’s a very sensitive issue (to contract with the sheriff’s). It could lead to perceptions that are not representative of our intent to the police officers, and with the public as well.”
Capoccia is referring to the city studying completely outsourcing police services to the Sheriff’s Department in hopes of saving the city money and addressing a reduction in revenue due to a sunsetting of a higher utility-users’ tax rate in July, when it is expected to drop from 8 percent to 6 percent. Fears about contracting with the Sheriff’s Department have been attributed to part of the reason for the exodus of some of Sierra Madre’s officers.
To counteract the loss in revenue, officials placed an initiative on the April 12 ballot that aims to increase the utility-users’ tax to 10 percent, which would stabilize the budget and provide funding for the police department, which has served the small community of 11,000 for almost a century.
“We’re good for right now,” Capoccia said. “We don’t have an issue today but if we lose more officers, we may have more problems.”
So which is it? The dire assessment originally issued by the city on January 22nd, which was also published in the Mountain Views News, Pasadena Now, SierraMadreNews.net and elsewhere? Or the now entirely opposite claim that Mayor Capoccia made on to the PSN on Wednesday stating "we're good for right now?"
One more. Originally City Hall told folks that there would be outside law enforcement patrolling the nighttime streets of Sierra Madre by February 7. That is now two days away. As of this typing there is little police presence on the streets of this town at night. Or at least that is what we were being told on January 22.
And now that Arcadia's City Council unanimously said no to that policing request, nobody downtown can tell us when this reportedly dangerous situation will end. Instead Mayor Capoccia has changed the city's message to "we're good for right now."
Arcadia, which is currently experiencing a significant crime wave, needed its cops to stay put. So how soon before the criminals working there figure out that those running this city are apparently playing politics with public safety? And that Sierra Madre is now unprotected at night?
Not feeling much leadership right now.