The Crescent City Police Department is scrambling to cope with what the police officer's union calls a near-crisis level staff shortage in coming weeks as officers leave for better-paying jobs with other agencies.
Effective April 30, Crescent City police will lose one sergeant to the Del Norte District Attorney's Office and a senior officer to the Del Norte Sheriff's Office (DNSO). Both individuals accepted positions with the other agencies earlier this year and submitted their notice Friday, according to Chief Ivan Minsal.
"It's going to be a little tight. The wages and benefits aren't real attractive when you compare them to other communities when it comes to law enforcement," said Minsal. "Our city council is understanding the problem and they are working toward trying to fix this, trying to get us back into some kind of competitive market so we can attract people who want to come to Crescent City."
As of May 1, the department will be down to 58 percent of its
allotted staffing. Of 12 positions provided in their budget, all those
remaining will be Minsal, one sergeant, and five officers, according to a
press release from the Crescent City Police Officer's Association.
Minsal said Friday the department was already "down a couple bodies"
when he took office in March 2015. He hired an additional officer soon
after, bringing the staff up to 11 sworn positions by October 2015, when
bargaining for the next employment contract between Crescent City and
the CCPOA commenced, said a lawyer spokesman.
But in January, one officer left for DNSO, then another applied for a
position with the California Highway Patrol. Two others are on their
way out right now, and CCPOA spokesman John Noble said another two
officers have applied for positions with other law enforcement agencies
in the state.
Even if the last two stick around, CCPOA will still be left with what
Noble calls the "nearly impossible task" of keeping the peace with a
reduced staff in Crescent City during the fast-approaching busy summer
Noble encourages the city to "quickly negotiate a successor
collective bargaining agreement with the CCPOA, which provides a pay
and benefit package competitive with the labor market for sworn law
enforcement personnel in Northern California jurisdictions."
In what could be an early step to address that request, the city has
enlisted an independent agency to conduct a classification study
intended to "objectively determine where we stand relative to other
cities," according to City Council member Rick Holley.
Results are expected in the next month and will compare salaries of
CCPD positions with those of similar job descriptions and comparable
The hunch of many is that CCPD pays disproportionately less, not only
relative to other Del Norte agencies but also to police departments in
similar cities. Minsal said he believed the hourly starting rate of his
officers could be among the lowest in the state - $17 per hour relative
to a state average of $28 per hour.
"Understandably the police department employees are concerned about
this," said Holley. "We are all anxiously awaiting the results of that
so we can see what it takes to make Crescent City more competitive."
Results of the study will likely influence negotiations between the
city and the police officer's union, which aims to settle on an updated
Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) before July.
"Negotiations could go on for a while, but the city is moving as fast
as it can. It wants to do the right thing because this is a time where I
believe a lot of employees might be affected - not only the police
department, but all the other 50 or so employees who make up the city
family," said Minsal.
"So there's a lot on the table from the city perspective, as well as a
law enforcement perspective. My job as a chief is I'm going to do my
best to protect the city. Some of the officers, they're probably going
to work some overtime. We may be busy, but I believe with the city and
community support we'll continue to protect the city until we can get
our staffing levels back up."
City Councilor Darrin Short believes it is paramount to identify and
resolve whatever is keeping would-be staff from joining or sticking with
"All the city councilmen would agree that this is our first priority.
That is why government is put in place - to protect its people. So if
we come to a place after the study is completed where we find that maybe
our compensation package is comparable with the others, then we're
going to have to explore different options to make the city more
Until more developments come, Minsal and his staff expect to get
creative, work overtime, and ask for patience and support from the
"Our officers will respond. We may have to prioritize, but we will
try to get to everybody's situation as best as we can," he said. "It
will require the chief to be creative, and some services might be cut
back. I don't know which ones those would be right now. I'm still
working all that out so check with me in a couple weeks."
Minsal said the department welcomes volunteers from the community, who can assist CCPD.
"We're going to get through this. It's not going to be easy, but I
believe our community will stand tall and continue to call us when they
have a law enforcement issue," he said.
"But let's not be panicking in the streets just yet," added Short.
Reach David Grieder at firstname.lastname@example.org