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Sunday, December 9 , 2018, 5:28 pm | Fair 60º


Amid Staffing Woes, Santa Barbara Police Chief Shifts Specialty Officers to Patrol

In response to ongoing staffing shortfalls, Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez has pulled five officers from specialty positions and placed them on patrol.

The city has 18 officers who are injured or on some form of medical leave, on top of nine vacant positions.

To help fill that staffing hole, Sanchez ordered the officers to patrol, a move that has upset some advocates of restorative policing.

Sanchez reassigned Det. Kristin Shamordola, an investigator; Officer Kasi Corbett, beat coordinator; Officer Tom Van Eyck, Tactical Patrol Force; Officer Mark Corbett, Nightlife Enforcement Team; and Officer Keld Hove, who worked downtown in restorative policing. 

All of those officers will now work patrol.

"This was not an easy decision, but it was a decision that I felt I needed to make in order to lift the numbers on the patrol staff level," Sanchez said. "Patrol is our No. 1 job — responding to 9-1-1 calls and other calls for service."

The reassignments will become official on Saturday, Nov. 14. 

The removal of Hove has sparked wide opposition from restorative-policing advocates, who credit him with building trust in the community — among both the downtown businesses and the homeless people downtown.

Hove did not respond to Noozhawk on Wednesday. Sgt. Harwood, a police spokesman, also said he was unavailable. 

Bob Stout, owner of The Wildcat downtown, said he was very concerned about the reassignments, specifically Hove's.

Stout said that he works with the State Outreach Program, and working with Officer Hove and others has been able to find housing for some of the longtime homeless people downtown. 

"I hate to see the momentum stop on that," Stout said. "We have gotten somewhere."

Homeless outreach worker Dave Hopkins said downtown won't be the same without Hove. 

"You get a flat tire and you put that little donut on and you ride around on that little donut and it is not the same," Hopkins said. "The trust issues that officer Hove has built the last eight years have been phenomenal. To replace him would be impossible."

Sharon Byrne, executive director of the Milpas Community Association, said Hove is "the anchor" to the downtown restorative-policing efforts.

"For us, this is a very serious shift in priorities," Byrne said. 

Byrne said the city should re-establish restorative policing as a city priority.

Common Ground Santa Barbara County’s South County Coordinator, Stephen Gruver, said the changes will hurt the city.

"It is is a step back for us and the issues we deal with it," said Gruver, leader to the group's homeless-outreach program. 

Officer Craig Burleigh and two civilian restorative outreach specialists, commonly referred to as "blue shirts," are still assigned to the unit, Harwood noted.

"That unit has always dealt with issues citywide, not just downtown, although many of their cases happen to affect quality of life in the downtown corridor," Harwood said.

In a related matter, the City Council on Tuesday voted to implement an employee-referral incentive program for the Police Department and 9-1-1 dispatchers.

Employees who refer someone who is hired by the Police Department will receive $1,000 on the new hire's first day of employment, and another $1,000 when the employee completes his or her probationary period.

The same referral incentive program applies to city dispatchers.

The police chief may offer a candidate for police officer trainee or police officer a hiring incentive of $3,000 upon completion of the Field Training Officer (FTO) program, $3,000 upon successful completion of the probationary period as a police officer, and $6,000 upon the third anniversary of the employee’s hire date, for a total of $12,000 per new hire. 

For dispatchers, the chief may offer a candidate for public safety dispatcher trainee or public safety dispatcher a hiring incentive paid as follows: $3,000 upon completion of the Communications Training Officer (CTO) program, $3,000 upon successful completion of the probationary period as a Public Safety Dispatcher, and $6,000 upon the third anniversary of the employee’s hire date, for a total of $12,000 per new hire. 

Sanchez, who is retiring early next year, said he understands the concerns, but reiterated that the department's top priority is patrol.

"At the end of the day, everything is important and everything is a priority," Sanchez said. 

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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