The number of Walnut Creek police officers has hit a critical low, forcing the department to take some drastic measures.
The Walnut Creek Police Chief Joel Bryden said the city has the money to hire more officers, but there's stiff competition from other police departments and that means some detectives are putting investigations on hold to work regular patrol.
The shortage of Walnut Creek police officers may not be immediately noticeable, but it soon became clear to Evelyn Nelsen when she walked inside police headquarters to report a case of identity theft.
"You'd think with that beautiful police station, and then there are no policemen on duty there," said Evelyn Nelsen. "They're all out."
The Walnut Creek Police Association called the current shortage of officers a critical low point.
Bryden said the Walnut Creek Police Department is funded" to have 76 officers. The city even authorized it over-hire to have up to 80 officers.
The department currently has about 65 healthy and available bodies.
Bryden said several officers are out on injury or military leave, but competition to attract new hires is also a factor.
"There's a lot of competition and part of that competition has better pay and benefits, and because of that, we're losing some applicants to other agencies," Bryden said.
Walnut Creek's website lists openings for new officers that pay $76,000 to $93,000 a year.
When asked whether Walnut Creek should offer more money, the chief said that's up to the City Council.
Mayor Cindy Silva and Vice Mayor Kristina Lawson said the idea of increasing pay and benefits has not been formally proposed to the City Council.
The department is sending new recruits into police academies in April and September.
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