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Over the last several months the increase in violence has risen yet our staffing levels continue to diminish. As of July, we have six vacant positions that are budgeted however not filled. This leaves 15 patrolmen to cover four different shifts. Our dispatch center is also struggling to fill positions as we have two vacant position which results in five dispatchers to cover four shifts.

I have brought the retention and recruitment issues to the council which continues to remain silent on holding our leadership accountable. Mayor Avalos and Mayor Pro-tem Robertson have been the only council members to reach out to the SPOA and ask what the underlining issues may be that are causing employees to leave our department. My last email to the council which was in early June of this year, reported four officer vacancies and two dispatch vacancies. Over the last 10 months we have only hired three officers, one of which was terminated for not meeting standards, one trainee who quit after two weeks and one trainee, who after five months of training will be a solo officer. These staffing levels are unacceptable, and this trend will most likely continue as it has for the last 12 months.

The council recognized the retention problem early this year and along with Chief Garner blaming the employee’s low salary as the problem. Although I believe salary is a key factor in officers leaving, I still stand strong in saying our leadership has failed and there is little to no confidence in our administration.

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The council responded to the retention and recruitment problem by giving the SPOA the biggest salary increases since I have been employed since 2005. The 13 percent raise over three years was a great start and greatly appreciated however this year we have already lost six employees and only gained two. We currently have two dispatchers attempting to get hired elsewhere and three police officers, including me, also looking for other employment. It is a little scary to think if these good folks leave us how much more the citizens of Selma will suffer.

If you remember back in 2016 during the Measure P campaign which was to fund our new police department, the SPOA’s opposition was largely based on priority. The priority to hire more officers and fix the retention problem before seeking more tax money from our citizens for a building. After the tax passed by one vote, and nearly two years later, we still have no new police building and the worst staffing levels surpassing the recession of 2007-2008 where the city laid off five police officers.

As a citizen of Selma for the past 12 years and a city where I am raising my children, I will continue to attempt to hold our leadership accountable. I recommend you do the same to change our quality of life in Selma. I know it is very frustrating for some of you when you require the assistance from our police department but please be patient. The officers, dispatchers and community service officers are doing their best with what we have. If you have any questions regarding our police department, please feel free to contact me at the email below. I also recommend you request a ride along to get a sense of what our employees are facing daily. Thank you.

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Andrew J Guzman is the President of the Selma Police Officers’ Association and a Selma resident.

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