Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin and Mayor Joe Gunter underscored the need for more police officers at a Salinas town hall meeting tonight.
The meeting, hosted by California Sen. Anthony Canella (R-Ceres) at La Paz Middle School, focused on the city’s prevalent gang violence problem. The school's cafeteria was packed, with at least 150 in attendance.
The Salinas police force has been reduced from 187 officers in 2009 to 131 police officers, with just 11 to 14 patrol cars out at any one time, the police chief said.
“What that means is that an event happens... a crash, a shooting, a structure fire...we lose half of our officers in one call,” said McMillin.
Bringing that point home was an audience member who said his son was held up at gunpoint last week, and complained the police were slow in responding and seemed interested only in filing paperwork instead of actually investigating.
McMillin, while defending his officers, also said, “The fact of the matter is in our town on a regular basis we run out of cops.”
Mayor Joe Gunter said the city needs a tax to provide more police services and to build a new police station.
A group called the Salinas Police Tax Committee is working on a measure to create new taxes to fund the city’s police force, according to Weekly files.
“I’m not a big believer in taxes by any means... but we do need taxes to provide basic services,” Gunter said.
Tonight’s town hall meeting was also attended by several prominent community members and politicians, including Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville). Panelists included Chief Probation Officer Manuel Real and Kent Shaw, chief at California’ Department of Justice.