The FBI recommends a staffing level of 1.5 Officers per 1,000 residents, based upon an analysis and average of staffing levels for local cities in the Western United States. As of 2008, the nearby city of Brentwood adopted this recommendation as part of their city ordinance (Section – 2.28.030). Making this ratio a matter of law was a conscious decision those city leaders made, to ensure their rapid growth did not surpass the ability to provide quality services to their residents.
Much like Brentwood, Walnut Creek has undergone significant growth in the past several years and we have approx. 1,400 new residential units in the planning stages for development in the near future. Instead of adding Officers to keep up with demand, city leaders recently froze 5 sworn Officer positions.
Interestingly enough, Walnut Creek has a city ordinance (Section: 10-1.602) for spending per 1,000 residents on recreational opportunities and an ordinance for public art spending on new developments (Section: 10-10.102), but we have no such similar requirement to match police staffing to our growth. Therefore, it probably comes as no surprise to anyone that we have fewer Officers now than we did 20 years ago.
By looking at the chart below, we can see that by our city council placing a priority on parks and art, as a matter of law, that police staffing levels have suffered. Based upon the latest 2010 population numbers, we should have a total of 100 sworn officers to meet the 1.5 Officers per 1,000 residents FBI recommendation.
Although we certainly agree that parks and recreational opportunities help make Walnut Creek special, a safe community is also important and a significant quality of life issue. According to this recommended ratio, we are short 25 sworn officers, with our current authorized staff of 75 Officers. This gives us one of the lowest police staffing ratios in the county.
With residential burglaries up 33% last year and our active downtown nightlife, these additional resources would certainly be helpful. Please join us in urging city leaders to make public safety a priority and help keep our neighborhoods safe.