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Council approves hiring of police officer

Police chief says position is not new; hiring would full current vacant officer slot at department
By: Gloria Beverage, Placer Herald Editor
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Rocklin City Council members voted 4-1 last week to fill a vacancy at the Rocklin Police Department. “This is not a new position,” Police Chief Ron Lawrence told the council on Aug. 9. “This is about maintaining the sworn level (of officers) we had prior to April 1.” Lawrence stressed the council’s decision would not impact the current budget nor would it require additional funds from the city. According to the staff report submitted to the council, there were 51 sworn positions, including then Chief Mark Siemens, as of March 31. After he was appointed chief, Lawrence restructured the management staff to better serve the department’s needs. His promotion from within the department left the department with a vacancy. “We have the lowest officer per population ratio in the region,” he told the council. “Our sworn officer ratio has been reduced to .86 per 1,000 residents.” In addition, overtime at the department has climbed steadily. In April, officers worked 721 hours of overtime. In May, the number had reached 915. By June overtime hours had climbed to 1,053. “This is having not only a monetary impact, but it’s unhealthy,” Lawrence said. While the city has a low crime rate, Lawrence pointed out that 50 percent of the people arrested in Rocklin are not residents. “They’re from Sacramento,” he said. “What happens in Sacramento has an impact on us in Rocklin. In Rocklin, we have a full service department. And we have outstanding citizenry. They help us fight crime.” Council member Peter Hill cast the lone dissenting vote. “The potential in the future is unknown” he said. “We’re looking at further cuts next year. I realize it is difficult to say no to a police officer. I can not in good conscience vote to add another employee to city staff and next year go back and lay off an officer.” In voting to approve Lawrence’s request, Mayor George Magnuson stressed the need to keep the department at the current level. “They work 12-hour shifts,” he said. “When they have longer shifts to work, it is not only hard on them, but it hurts their family members.” By hiring another police officer, Lawrence indicated the ratio would increase to .88 per 1,000 residents. Base salary for a police officer is $4,505 per month plus benefits. Earlier in the meeting, Rocklin Police Lt. Terry Roide gave the council an update on police service at Sierra Community College. Based on the contract signed in June 2010, he said, the department has designated the services of two full-time police officers and a half-time sergeant to the Rocklin campus. The officers are on the Rocklin campus Mondays through Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. In the first six months of 2011, Roide told the council, Sierra College officers responded to 507 incidents, of which 375 were officer-initiated. The incidents ranged from moving citations and traffic collisions to medical aid calls. The initial concerns expressed by college staff about having uniformed police on campus have dissipated. “They still have a very positive feeling,” he said. “No one has questioned anything about the tenure of the contract. We’re always trying to improve.”