VALLEJO, Calif. - Officials with the Vallejo Police Department are in initial discussions with neighboring law enforcement agencies one day after Vallejo City Council unanimously declared a state of emergency to address a severe staffing shortage that is threatening the safety of residents.
The department, which has 34 officers on the streets, needs at least another 20 officers to alleviate overtime and get response times back to where they should be, police said.
"We’re working as much as we can on recruiting, but the officers here are tasked with a lot," said Deputy Chief Joseph Gomez in an interview Wednesday. "We don’t want the officers who are here now to leave."
Officials said five officers have left for other departments since March and three others are planning to leave next month.
On Tuesday night, the Vallejo City Council approved a state of emergency proclamation that will allow the department to turn to other agencies for help and hire officers to temporarily lessen the staffing shortage.
Gomez said the goal is to fill 20 positions in the coming weeks to keep the community safe.
"Those will go into effect once we make those connections with other agencies that are willing to help us out, whether it’s Solano County Sheriff’s Office, Napa Police Department or the California Highway Patrol," he said.
Right now, there are 51 funded officer positions that remain unfilled. The staffing deficit has been steadily worsening in recent months, prompting drastic measures from the Vallejo Police Department.
Documents reviewed by KTVU show the department has stopped responding to alarm calls, disbanded its traffic division, and is rotating detectives into patrol duties to fill the void.
"It has gotten so bad that multiple individuals have indicated that they are intending to move," said Vallejo resident and civil rights attorney Melissa Nold. "It’s because of a lack of response to calls for issues like domestic violence and restraining orders."
Nold said she has received calls of people wanting to sue over a lack of response or over fears police resources aren’t being delivered to residents.
During the declared public safety emergency the city manager is required to make sure all necessary resources are provided to the police department. City Council must review the staffing situation every 60 days.
Vallejo Police said improving response times is a top priority, but it will require assistance, knowing that hiring and training permanent officers could take years.
"We want the community to understand that we’re doing everything that we can to protect them," Gomez said. "It’s on our minds constantly."