The department is currently grappling with a severe shortage of officers, raising concerns about public safety and law enforcement capabilities.
City documents show there are only 34 officers, including supervisors, available to patrol the entire city. The shortage has led to delayed response times in emergency situations, and forced the existing officers to work extensive overtime.
Furthermore, the situation is expected to exacerbate in the upcoming month with reports indicating several more officers are planning to leave the force.
The staffing deficit has been steadily worsening in recent months, prompting drastic measures from the Vallejo Police Department. The department has disbanded its traffic division, while also rotating detectives into patrol duties to fill the void left by the shortage.
In an effort to combat the crisis, city officials said the emergency order would grant the city manager the authority to deputize additional city personnel as needed for the protection of the community. The move aims to mitigate the impact of the shortage and ensure adequate resources to maintain public safety.
City records reveal there are a total of 132 funded positions within the police department, but only 80 of these positions are currently filled. Many officers are unable to carry out patrol duties due to injuries or illnesses.
Interim police Chief Jason Ta confirmed there are 51 officer vacancies.
He acknowledged that while staffing issues have plagued his department and city, police shortages are a common issue faced by law enforcement agencies. He said the focus needs to be on retention to overcome this challenge.
"While recruiting is ongoing, we must focus on retention since it takes approximately 18-24 months for new officers to successfully go through hiring, background, the police academy, and field training before serving the public in a solo beat officer capacity," he said in a statement to KTVU.
The gravity of the situation prompted City Council's Tuesday night emergency meeting.
One woman who spoke at the meeting said her grandson served in Vallejo Police Department for seven months after graduating from the academy, but left to work for another law enforcement agency.
"He was indeed questioning his own safety on a day-to-day basis. Lots of overtime. Overtime as much as you can do. There was another issue that concerns me: How much overtime can officers [get] before they are too fatigued to respond to the needs of the city?" said Carolyn Dyson, a Vallejo resident.
She said the declaration is a short-term solution and that the city needs a long-term solution. Residents are frustrated, she said.
According to a letter from the Vallejo Police Officers' Association to City Council, there has long been a staffing emergency within the police department.
"It is unconscionable that the Vallejo City Council would attempt to change working conditions for Vallejo Police Officers by unlawfully declaring a local emergency," the police union wrote.