CALEXICO â€“ Dozens of Calexico residents showed their support MondayÂ evening for their local police during a town hall meeting at the Womenâ€™s Improvement Center by the Calexico Police Officers Association (CPOA) who face an uncertain future due to the cityâ€™s financial shortfall.
On November 16, Calexico city council voted in favor of seeking alternatives for public safety and law enforcement services as a possible solution to close the cityâ€™s $3.9 million deficit. During the meeting, Calexico City Manager Armando Villa elaborated on the cityâ€™s deficit saying over the last five years the city had spent between 50 to 75 percent of the $17 million city general budget on public safety, with only 25 percent of the budget to provide the citizens of Calexico other essential services.
Officer Peter West said citizens needed to hear the truth from the CPOAâ€™s perspective.
â€œWe are not afraid of the truth and we are going to tell you the truth today,â€ said West. â€œThere is a lot of stuff on local media and rumors, therefore, today we want you to leave informed, at least from our perspective.â€
CPOA President Sean AcuÃ±a said they have complied with the cityâ€™s request to reduce the departmentâ€™s budget.
â€œWe were asked by city council to cut the police departmentâ€™s budget by $560,000 and we complied and exceeded the amount by $13,000 with a total savings of $573,000,â€ said AcuÃ±a. â€œItâ€™s like they (council) almost want us to dwindle down to where we get to a point where the takeover is inevitable.â€
AcuÃ±a said the city has not accepted the CPOA offer which was submitted earlier this year and also noted they have attempted numerous times to obtain an update from the city with no response.
â€œThe city manager and the city council have told you the public and city staff that we are not budging and that is not true,â€ said AcuÃ±a. â€œWe are working diligently to make this happen. Our jobs are at stake and almost all of our officers have a connection here.â€
He went on to say the city has advised bringing in the ICSOÂ (Imperial County Sheriff’s Office)Â to save the city money and therefore resolving the cityâ€™s financial current and future budget.
â€œThere has been a lot of talk that the Sheriffâ€™s Department is cheaper, well, let me tell you that is not the case,â€ said AcuÃ±a. â€œBased off of Transparent Californiaâ€™s website, the average combined salaries reveal that the ICSO is 19.5% higher per year than the CPD.â€
AcuÃ±a went on to say the ICSO was not equipped to handle car accidents, auto thefts, and DUIâ€™s until about 30 days prior. It was his understanding the ICSO were in training to handle DUI cases.
Among the attendees was Imperial County Sheriff Ray Loera, who commended the CPOA as well as those present for taking the initiative to discuss the CPOA situation and said he wanted to hear what the people had to say.
Loera also made it clear that the ICSO deputies are trained to investigate DUI incidents contrary to statements made by the CPOA.
â€œWe have been doing DUIâ€™s for years,â€ explained Loera. â€œWe have a full time police department and I can assure you we would have several full-time supervisors assigned to the city if that were the case.â€
Having no counter offer from the city, CPOA members strongly believe it is a strategy to contract with the ICSO.
The following day, Tuesday, December 6, during the Imperial County Board of Supervisors public comment period, Calexico resident Margaret Sauza approached the board and said the CPD was not doing their job and strongly believed bringing in the ICSO to serve Calexico would be in the best interest of the city and its residents.