BERKELEY (KPIX 5) — The Berkeley Police Department is having serious staffing issues.
The department has already axed its bike patrol and drug task force, and warns it will have to do away with its traffic enforcement division in the next couple months.
Berkeleyside reports that Berkeley police staffing levels have reached a crisis point, and the entire traffic bureau along with some investigative positions may be on the chopping block in early 2018, according to reports this week from Berkeley Police Department.
Cuts in the Community Services Bureau and the suspension of the Special Investigations Bureau are also coming, officers have said.
“I’ve never seen it this low,” said Berkeley police Chief Andrew Greenwood.
Chief Greenwood has spent 35 years with the Berkeley PD.
“We have come down from some 200 officers. Now our staffing is at 176,” Greenwood said.
But only 160 officers are on the streets.
Greenwood said, “We have to shift them to patrol to make sure we are meeting the basic level and to our detective division to make sure we are getting follow-up investigations.”
Losing the bike patrol has been an especially hard hit for stores in the downtown and Telegraph Avenue areas.
Stuart Baker with the Telegraph Business Improvement District said, “Image matters a lot. We really depend on having the cops around to improve the sense of security.”
John Caner with the Downtown Berkeley Association said, “You know if you have somebody who is camping outside of your store, or causing a problem, it can be an hour or two hours before we get a response.”
It’s a frustration for the cops as well. Often, the person they tried to help or had to arrest, will be back on the street within a day or two.
“The same cycle over and over,” Greenwood said.
Even with a starting pay of $95,000, other departments are paying more. Then, of course, there is the cost of living.
“Some of our folks have to commute quite a ways even up as far and beyond Sacramento, Stockton and south to San Jose,” Greenwood said.
None of this is being lost on Berkeley’s mayor.
“We’ll have to focus on patrols, but the city is definitely working at trying to not only retain, but also attract new officers,” said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin.