‘Civilian’ oversight

Poetry 99:
I love poems and other lyrical writing, so I’m excited about the CN&R’s new contest for poets. Not only are we giving kids and teens their own categories, we’re including spoken-word/slam poets, who will be judged live. The 99 represents our limits: poems up to 99 words, performances up to 99 seconds. Click here for details.

At the last Chico City Council meeting, on Oct. 2, Police Chief Bruce Hagerty made a presentation about what the department was doing and plans to do in order to address the rash of shootings in the city this fall.

As if to underscore the problem, another shooting—the 10th since Aug. 1—went down two nights later.

Hagerty rolled out a PowerPoint show with statistics and bullet-points (no pun intended). He articulated a short-term plan (“triage” for 9-1-1 calls, zero tolerance for fighting, redeployment of units) and a long-term plan (cooperation to foster changes in prisons and parole, staffing increases).

All in all, the council seemed pleased with what it saw, because questions and suggestions were gentle, almost deferential.

Councilman Scott Gruendl tried to brainstorm ways to help the Chico PD without the expense of the 10-year staffing plan. How about asking the city’s partners in low-income housing complexes to let the police know when they suspect a gang member has moved in? How about an additional penalty or fine for a crime involving a gun? How about putting surveillance cameras in “problem areas”?

No argument from the chief.

CHP officer-turned-councilman Tom Nickell, who’d requested the presentation, put out other ideas, starting with a public safety tax. Then he probed, with ever so slightly more force.

How about hiring some retired officers—paid by the hour from citations they’d write for ordinance violations not currently enforced—to patrol downtown and parks? (Chief: “Makes some sense.”) Changing shifts to eight-hours each? (Chief: “I think we’d be going backward.”) Charging college students a processing fee when they’re arrested? (Chief: “We’ve never looked at that.”) Asking the DA to include 50 hours of cleaning in the sentences for vandals? (Chief: “I think that would work.”)

Vice-Mayor Ann Schwab pondered an assessment district around the campus, which Gruendl followed up on with the notion of Chico State students assessing themselves a “safety fee.” After some more talk about hiring retirees and the 10-year plan, the council voted unanimously to have the Internal Affairs Committee come up with low- and no-cost ways to boost law enforcement.

I’m not in a position to question the effectiveness of Hagerty’s response. He said the force has only enough officers to react to crimes rather than proactively prevent them. The shooting two nights later may be coincidental, perhaps ironic, but not proof of failure.

Councilmembers are in position to question. Really, that’s their job. These local elected officials don’t need to be experts; they just need to have inquiring minds, healthy skepticism and a knack for problem-solving.

Quick note: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Butte County has crowned the Big Celebrity, and (sigh) it wasn’t me. Golf pro David Lee raised the most money in Big Event history, thanks to a tournament at his club, so deejay Dori McKay and I are also-rans. Ego aside, David proved a windfall for the kids—tip of the cap to you, Big Celeb!