Bike officers, others reassigned amid Stockton Police staff shortages, union says
The Stockton Police Department plans to end its bicycle officer program and remove officers from public housing communities amid a staffing shortfall of more than 100 officers, police union leaders said earlier this month.
"We’re grasping for straws. We're trying to salvage the integrity of the department and keep people here," said Jeremiah Skaggs, a traffic officer and vice president of the Stockton Police Officer's Association.
The bicycle and public housing officer jobs are just some of the multiple roles — from school resource officers to local FBI partners — to be eliminated in a last-ditch effort to put enough officers on daily patrols, according to union leaders.
"Adjusting staff from special assignments to patrol was not taken lightly," police Chief Stanley McFadden said.
"It was a hard, and lengthy discourse with the community, officer safety, and employee morale in mind."
Eight months, two department shakeups
The shakeup comes eight months after another major reorganization that cut the number of daily patrol shifts from four to three. It also eliminated some detectives and ended police participation in court programs for people with substance use, mental illness and other issues. The detectives were reassigned to patrol.
Patrol numbers dropped from 172 to somewhere between 130 and 140 as of early March, according to union leaders. The latest reassignments will put that number back above 150, they said.
They added that patrols are a symptom of a "staffing hole," in which the department has been unable to attract new officers at the same rate they're leaving.
As of last week, the department employed 360 officers, but has the budget for 485 officers, they said.
Too few officers on patrol leads to burnout among those who are left, Skaggs said.
"Over and over, you're responding to calls where people are being shot, where people are being killed, child abuse, sexual assaults," he said.
"The lower our staffing is … the more frequent it is that you’re responding to those calls for service."
Bike officers hang up helmets
Every bicycle officer position will be eliminated in April and the officers re-assigned to patrol, union leaders said.
As a result, those officers will no longer participate in Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, a program that aims to put people with mental health or substance use issues into stable housing.
Bicycle officers often knew the program's unhoused clients well after seeing them regularly on the streets, according to Skaggs. "They got to know these people on a very close level, and got to know what their needs were."
The program typically works with about 25 people at a time, he said.
"Even if (now) they go twice a month, and they get on their bicycle to go ride around … those ties will be broken."
No HUD housing officers
Officers posted at Conway Homes, Sierra Vista Homes and other public housing communities have been reassigned to patrol, union leaders said.
HUD housing officers were key to reducing violence in those communities, they argued.
Earlier this month, 17-year-old Justin Schenk and 20-year-old Omar Rincon were found shot at about 9 p.m. on 10th Street in south Stockton, near Sierra Vista. Both died and a third 19-year-old victim was injured, police said.
Just 12 days before, two others were shot to death at Southside Market, just north of Sierra Vista on Airport Way.
Reduced FBI partnership
Officers formerly assigned to work with FBI counterparts on complex cases have been reassigned to patrol, union leaders said.
The FBI task force brought resources the Stockton department doesn't have to solve investigations like Operation Hybrid Havoc, an anti-gang operation that led to 88 felony arrests, including of two homicide suspects, in June.
The task force also helped police find and arrest suspect for serial killings that occurred in Stockton and Oakland in 2021 and 2022, union leaders said. Wesley Brownlee was arrested and charged for some of the killings in October.
Only one Stockton officer remains on the FBI task force, Skaggs said.
Record reporter Aaron Leathley covers public safety. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @LeathleyAaron. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at https://www.recordnet.com/subscribenow.
This article originally appeared on The Record: Stockton Police Department facing staffing woes, union says