CALEXICO — Showing support for the Calexico Police Department (CPD) and sharing their concerns, dozens of community residents gathered at Rockwood Plaza Park on Tuesday, hoping to help save the department currently in limbo.
The rally came after the City Council voted November 16, in favor of seeking alternatives for public safety and law enforcement services as a possible solution to close the city’s $3.9 million deficit. During the meeting, Calexico city manager Armando Villa elaborated on the city’s deficit saying the last five years the city had spent 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 other essential services.
Hoping to get their point across, those attending held up signs, “Save our Calexico Police Department,” and “We don’t want Sheriffs” and “Do not bring Sheriffs in our city.”
Local resident and community leader, Olivia Valenzuela, said maintaining the CPD was essential to maintaining safety within the city.
“We have concerns and are seeking information as well as answers, which is something that has not been provided to us,” said Valenzuela. “I am worried about my community and the value of my house.”
Valenzuela noted without a police department, the chances of attracting new businesses to the city were slim to none.
“The first thing people look at when buying real estate or starting up new businesses is the school system and public safety,” said Valenzuela. “If we don’t have safety, we will go down in many ways, we won’t have tax (revenue) it’s a vicious cycle.”
Valenzuela said the city was only worried about the deficit and not the safety of the residents.
“My fear is that they are only focusing on the current financial situation without looking at the long-term picture” said Valenzuela. “They need to consider the payouts and be prepared for any lawsuits that might rise, who knows what can happen. They are not looking at the details and the big picture.”
Valenzuela said the community is not against the city government, they simply want to be safe in the city they reside.
“Why does the police department have to pay for everyone else’s mistakes?” said Valenzuela. “We want to trust the decisions our city council makes for our benefit, however, is that really happening right now?”
City officials and the Imperial County’s chief executive officer have contacted the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office to discuss the possibility of contracting their law enforcement services for the city.
Facing an uncertain future, the Calexico Police Officers Association (CPOA) are doing their part and have launched a campaign to keep the police department, the first salvo being a town hall meeting December 5.
During the December 5 meeting, CPOA President Sean Acuña said the CPOA was asked by the City Council to cut the police department’s budget by $560,000. The CPOA complied and exceeded the amount by $13,000 with a total savings of $573,000. He also said it was as if the council almost wanted the CPOA to dwindle down to a point where the takeover was inevitable.
Acuña said the city had not accepted the CPOA offer which was submitted earlier this year, and noted they have attempted numerous times to obtain an update from the city with no response.
Newly elected Council member Bill Hodge was at Tuesday’s rally showed his support while advising those present to attend council meetings and demand they be heard.
“The solution is not the sheriffs. It’s keeping our police department,” said Hodge. “I will organize and request the city council to hold a public forum to find solutions and the best structure for the benefit of our community.”
Chief Reggie Gomez, who was waiting outside the police department, was appreciative of the community support.
“I had heard talk about it, but didn’t see any fliers passed around,” said Gomez. “The talk kept getting strong until today, then I looked out the window and saw some people with signs and I said, ‘It’s really happening.’ It’s a beautiful gesture by the community.”