At the September 29, 2016 Woodland West Neighborhood Association (WWNA) of Modesto meeting, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christiansen seemed overwhelmed by the law enforcement challenges his department faces. His presentation did not reassure citizens that they live in a safe community. He counseled citizens to keep all doors and windows locked, keep all possessions locked up tight, and install video cameras if one can afford to do so.
At the end of his presentation, the sheriff was asked: “The application process for concealed weapons permits has been closed off. When will it be reopened?”
Sheriff Christiansen replied that the application process has not been closed. He said that several thousand (!) concealed weapons permit applications are currently pending for citizens of Stanislaus County. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security presently need over 60 days to process the large number of applications from all over the country.
In 2010, when the State of California did the prison realignment and tens of thousands of low level offenders were released statewide, the sheriff increased concealed weapons permits because of the sudden demand. The demand has continued unabated ever since.
Policing Challenges In Stanislaus County
The meeting was attended by representatives from the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s office, the Modesto Police Department, and the California Highway patrol. Out of necessity, all law enforcement agencies in Stanislaus County work closely together. For high priority emergency calls, the policy is that the nearest officer will respond regardless of political jurisdiction. For example, if a Modesto City officer is closer than a sheriff’s deputy, the Modesto officer will be dispatched. When calling 911 for help, citizens need not worry about jurisdiction.
Neither the County Sheriff nor the City of Modesto has adequate manpower to respond to all calls on a timely basis. Sheriff Christiansen and Modesto Lieutenant Aaron Tait stated that both agencies have many openings for officers, but are unable to fill them due to lack of qualified candidates. The sheriff stated that only about 1.6 applicants out of 100 successfully make police officer ranks. The rest wash out at various points in the training process. The sheriff also indicated trouble retaining officers due to retirement and other factors. Writer’s Note: The full employment level may NEVER be reached as incumbent officers move on to higher paying jobs, other communities, other careers or retire.
An Aside: Colin Kaepernick
Sheriff Christiansen made a point of criticizing San Francisco 49’ers football player and former Turlock resident Colin Kaepernick. Christiansen said his remark about hair dressers receiving more training than police officers was not true. He said his deputies receive much more training than hair dressers and the sheriff appeared indignant about the remark. When asked about police shootings in other states, a Modesto Police presenter commented that the training appeared deficient in some of the incidents shown on television. City of Modesto police officers have their body cameras turned on all the time. Perhaps training in other states is not as good as in Stanislaus County?
Failure to Respond
The City of Modesto often has more calls for police service than officers available to handle them. Low priority calls may be completely ignored even if multiple requests are received. Calls involving violence and physical danger are the first to receive attention. The lack of response to low priority calls will continue until sufficient officers can be hired. Citizens should continue to call in the hope that an officer will eventually be free to handle a low priority call.
There has been a spike in domestic violence calls. These are high priority. They take up a lot of officer time and require the response of at least two officers. Domestic violence calls used to end about 4AM. The graveyard shift now receives calls during the entire shift. The problem has escalated due to economic hardship and drug use.
According to Sheriff Christiansen, some bad laws in California are making policing more difficult. For example, theft of merchandise worth under $950 is now only a misdemeanor. Therefore, a shoplifter who steals less than $950 gets a ticket and goes home. More often, the criminal goes out and commits more crimes. This law has created major security problems for retail stores. The sheriff also panned diversion laws for drug users, indicating they are ineffective.
Sheriff Christiansen opposes legalizing Marijuana. He said that a lot of crime is related to use of Marijuana. The drug has been cultivated such that it is much more powerful than it used to be, making it more dangerous than the public realizes. Colorado has more places selling weed than the number of Starbucks and McDonalds stores combined.
The Sheriff also opposes Proposition 57 on the November ballot, which would mandate the release of additional prisoners, making the streets even less safe.
Time to Buy a Gun?
Sheriff Christiansen painted such a bleak outlook regarding the ability of law enforcement to control criminal activity that one might feel the need to buy a gun after hearing his presentation. If he presents the same information wherever he speaks, his message may explain why Stanislaus County has a large backlog of applications for concealed weapons permits. His words are evoking fear. After all, with more criminals on the street and not enough police officers, what is the public to do but be afraid?
When the Sheriff was asked why he does not quickly fill his ranks by lowering qualifications, he replied that he wants to make sure that the public has good quality protection. Better to have no response than an unqualified one?