Police Chief Dan Watson came to the Mammoth Lakes Town Council Wednesday night with his stars on his uniform shirt, a plea for staffing and his hat in hand.
The council said sorry, but see ya.
“I came forward with some recommendations that I think shouldn’t wait until the next budget year,” Watson said after the council turned back his suggestions, at least until the regularly scheduled council meeting in the second week of January.
“What I heard was support for the argument – the concept that we need additional staffing and additional supervision,” Watson said.
“But I’m not in a position to make recommendations on funding and all of that.”
In prepared remarks before the council, Watson made a compelling argument for adding staff to the MLPD.
“The Mammoth Lakes Police Department currently has an authorized and funded strength of 21 personnel, with 18 sworn and three civilian employees.
“This is less than the level of staff in the police department had in 2000.
“The authorized strength was as high as 28 in 2006-2008. The impact of the recession on the budget has caused us to retreat to 2000 levels.”
Later, in comparing Mammoth with other similar-sized towns, Watson said, “The results of the evaluation show that the MLPD is woefully understaffed with supervisory personnel in comparison to similar-sized cities.”
The biggest problem in the MLPD, Watson said, is that his staff has been depleted in supervisory personnel such as lieutenants and sergeants.
He said he could make up for some of that with promotions from within, but that would leave his field staff short.
In essence, Watson asked the council for immediate help.
“I have deep concerns about the ability to properly manage the Police Department,” he said.
“I have been tasked with improving leadership and changing the culture of the department, and that cannot be done without adequate supervision.
“I have personally witnessed police corruption scandals in other police departments that were substantially caused by inadequate supervision.
“The MLPD is lacking an adequate level of supervision, and as a result, the potential for failure exists.”
The council was unmoved, save for longtime council member John Eastman, who said he supported a move toward providing Watson with the help.
But the rest of the council turned the proposal back, citing budget problems.
“I want to fit your needs into the existing budget,” said councilman Rick Wood. “I’m not saying no, but I’ve got a lot of questions, and I’m not ready yet.”
Said councilwoman Jo Bacon: “My biggest concern is that if we say yes now, that we may not be able to fund it past June 30 (the end of the fiscal year). So I’m hesitant.”