Ad-Hoc Citizen’s Public Safety Advisory Commitee

OVERVIEW OF THE VALLEJO

AD-HOC CITIZEN’S  PUBLIC SAFETY ADVISORY COMMITTEE

By Paula McConnell

 

On December 20, 2011 the Vallejo City Council established the first ever Ad-Hoc Citizen’s Public Safety Advisory Committee.

The original city resolution (12-050 N.C.) establishes the purpose and responsibilities of the committee:

a.) Receive referrals and make recommendations to the City Council as to public safety issues within the city of Vallejo.

b.) Receive public input regarding enhancement of public safety in the community.

c.) Review opportunities for public safety cost savings, revenue opportunities, and enhanced technology to create a safer community.

d.) Review ongoing enhancements of public safety already underway in the Vallejo police and fire departments.

The public is openly invited to attend the committee’s meetings and to speak out at the Community Forum portion of the evening, which occurs at the beginning of the sessions at 6:30 PM. Each person is given three minutes to present statements, ask questions, provide suggestions or express concerns—similar to City Council meetings. 

The Vallejo Lamplighter encourages citizens from Neighborhood Watch and all of Vallejo to speak up regarding public safety.

Committee member Kathy Beistel agrees: “We urge everyone to get the word out, and to come down to speak,” “The more we hear from the public, the better informed we will be for our final reports. I try to get the information out on Facebook, and wherever else possible. Please spread the word.”

If you have positive suggestions for either the police or fire departments on how to improve operations, communications, or finance, please let your voice be heard. Come down to City Hall for the next meeting on July 11 at 6:30 PM. 

The committee will be happy to hear your suggestions, and you might see them incorporated into their final report to the City Council at the end of the year.

Featured Speakers for Upcoming Meetings Include:

—July 11: A San Jose State University professor who will speak about new trends in policing from an academic standpoint.

—July 25: The Vallejo Fire Department staff will weigh in on its Emergency Medical Services. (In the past, many community members have questioned why a hook and ladder truck must show up when someone is having trouble breathing, for example. These types of policies will be thoroughly reviewed.)

—August 8: The public will hear from Sgt. Sid DeJesus, the Professional Responsibility (Internal Affairs) Officer of the Vallejo Police Department. Currently there is no Citizens Review Commission in Vallejo, and Sgt. DeJesus will offer a presentation on the internal mechanisms in place to review complaints against officer conduct.

—August 22: There will be a representative from a Civilian Police Review Commission from a Bay Area city, perhaps San Francisco.

The September and October meetings are still in the planning stages.

The meeting is also televised on the Vallejo government cable channel, Channel 28, and is rebroadcast on Thursday afternoons.

It is important to remember that our City Council is elected to help make policy changes and see them through. They are the elected policy makers, but without solid input, their jobs are made more difficult. So please speak out and become part of the democratic process.

How and Why the Ad Hoc Citizens Public Safety Committee was formed, and

Actions Taken and Testimony Heard to Date

Formation of the Committee

On a more definitive level, the committee is charged with

1.) A review of ‘best practices’ in other cities with respect to Citizens Police Commissions, including approaches, powers, limitations and the impact of various models of citizen review.

2.) Review best practices in other cities with respect to police and fire department efficiency operations, crime suppression, revenue generation (how to make more money through parking enforcement, etc.), reducing service calls, increasing police presence, and enhancing technology to reduce crime and thereby creating a safer community.

3.) Review of current and future trends in public safety compensation methodology.

The committee was created by a majority on the city council. Council Member Stephanie Gomes and Mayor Osby Davis agreed to be the liaisons for the council, and act as the “City Council Public Safety Committee,” per se.

The Ad-Hoc Citizen’s Public Safety Advisory Committee is charged with gathering the information outlined above, making careful considerations for any recommendations for change, and presenting their findings to the “City Council Public Safety Committee” i.e. Gomes and Davis.

The target date for this final presentation, which will include a conclusive filing of committee recommendations, will be on October 15, 2012.

There is some evidence to suggest, however, that the committee may request a time extension in view of the sheer volume of information the committee must examine.

The actual selection of the core committee was handled in a diplomatic process. Each Council Member was allowed to appoint one member to the committee. The criteria for appointment to the committee were that the nominee had to be a citizen of Vallejo and that he or she had to be a registered Vallejo voter.

From the nominees submitted, the following people were ultimately selected:

Kathy Beistel

Karol Heppe

Kevin Kelley (a former Vallejo police officer)

Joanne Schivley

Robert Schussel

William Tweedy (a former Vallejo firefighter)

Burky Worel (former Vallejo police officer and school board member)

Sergeant Sid DeJesus of the Vallejo Police Department and Patrick Dunn of the Vallejo Fire Department were selected as non-voting representatives from the police and fire departments.

During the first meeting on April 11th, member Kathy Beistel recommended Joanne Schivley for the Chair position, and Bob Schussel was recommended as Vice Chair. It was agreed that this committee would meet every other week after the initial meeting, with April 25th to be the next meeting. (The committee meets in the council chambers at Vallejo City Hall, on Wednesday evenings at 6:30 PM.)

Actions Taken and Testimony Heard to Date: 

The committee has heard extensive presentations:

One came from the Vacaville Police Department, whose representative spoke at length regarding their Police in Service program. He spoke enthusiastically about their volunteer program, where one program director coordinates dozens of volunteers. This program incorporates people of all age groups, and from all walks of life.

Other speakers throughout the early spring included the Solano County Sheriff Gary Stanton, who gave a thorough overview of his department’s volunteer program. When one committee member asked how he could afford to hire volunteers, Sheriff Stanton replied: “Quite frankly, with budget cuts, we cannot afford not to invite our volunteers to help us.”

Subsequent meetings included Police Chief Allen Cantando of Antioch, who offered stellar information as to his “Coffee with the Cops” program wherein he meets with Antioch citizens weekly to receive their concerns and possible suggestions as to how to improve his overall department. Cantando proudly stated, “I have received a number of great suggestions from the public, which I have implemented immediately and which are still being used today.” He shared many of those ideas with the Vallejo committee.

At yet another meeting, the Vallejo Fire Department gave a thorough overview of their CERT (Citizen Emergency Response Team) program. Several committee members suggested that the VFD do more to market and publicize this program, where they invite citizens of all ages to prepare for an extensive training in disaster rescue, health and safety mechanisms, and other emergency issue. They have several training sessions a year, with the hope of teaching members of the public how to respond to disastrous situations, and retaining those people as VFD volunteers. It is a very successful program, and department representatives strongly encourage those interested to contact the Fire Department. They will begin another training session in September of this year.

The last meeting topic featured Vallejo Police Chief Robert Nichelini, who took the opportunity to announce his imminent retirement. Chief Nichelini was joined by retired police captain Tony Pearsall. Together they gave a through outline as to what the now defunct “Beat Health Program” did when in full service. They explained that it was a combination of Code Enforcement, the police and fire departments, Fighting Back Partnership and other community organizations working together to help the identify and respond to community safety problems, with heightened arrest numbers and greater responsiveness to citizen concerns.

Since its inception the committee has decided it would be best to break into issue-focused subgroups, and recently established the following three subcommittees:

Community (volunteerism and communications): Beistel, Schussel, Tweedy.

Operations (manuals and best practices): Heppe, Kelley, Worel

Finance (expenditures and compensation): Schivley, Schussel, Worel

The committees agreed to meet off-site to discuss the particular ramifications and suggested methodologies for each area of concern.

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