POMONA — Frustrated by chronic drug-related crime, the City Council has pledged its support for a $2.44-million program to beef up the city's hard-pressed police force.
Although no method of funding was determined, officials in this financially strapped city said a new tax or assessment district would be the most likely source of revenue for increasing the Police Department's manpower by a proposed 35 positions.
With 144 sworn officers in a city of 113,000, the Pomona Police Department falls about 59 officers short of the national average for cities its size.
"If this means (earmarking) the utility tax this coming year or placing before the voters a safety assessment district or other budgetary means, funds must be raised," Mayor G. Stanton Selby told the council.
Message to Criminals
"Pomona must have a Police Department staffed with enough personnel to put the word out in capital letters that crime and criminals are going to have a very difficult time surviving here," he said.
The council's support is being directed toward a program sought last summer by Police Chief Richard M. Tefank which calls for hiring 21 sworn officers, 14 civilians and purchasing a second helicopter for seven-day-a-week aerial patrols.
Tefank praised the council's action, noting that calls for police service have grown from 102,000 in 1975 to an estimated 200,000 last year while the number of sworn officers has remained the same.
"There's certainly been a recognition that we're undermanned," Tefank said in an interview. "If an officer is going from call to call to call, he does not have the opportunity to go out to crime areas and prevent crime. He is being reactive, not pro-active."
No Budget Shuffling
City Administrator Ora E. Lampman said there is little chance that Tefank's program can be funded by reshuffling the city's budget, which already has been adopted by the council for the coming fiscal year.
The council has slashed the budget every year since 1982, including more than $1 million in cuts that were made for this fiscal year.
A similar attempt to increase manpower fizzled last July when the council failed to reach agreement on a proposed $3.5-million assessment district that would have funded Tefank's program, as well as expanded fire and communication services.
But at Monday's meeting, Selby said the Police Department "must have the manpower to fully implement the program of support requested by Chief Tefank," even if it means raising the issue of an assessment district again. I'm very serious about this and I mean it," Selby said. "It's critical."
Other council members echoed the mayor, adding that the assessment district that had been proposed last summer was rejected because it came so soon after increasing the local utility tax by 57% to help fund the city's $37.9-million budget.
If nothing else, council members have said voters should at least be given an opportunity to decide the question of an assessment district at the polls.
"I think if you put it on the ballot now, the people will pass it," Councilman E. J. (Jay) Gaulding said.
"It has to be tried now," agreed Councilman Vernon M. Weigand, who had opposed such a tax when it was proposed last summer. "I believe it's probably about the only way."
Councilwoman Donna Smith, who was unable to attend the meeting because of a death in her family, said in a telephone interview from Pennsylvania that she was pleased by the council's action.
"Hallelujah," said Smith, a persistent advocate of police funding. "They have finally recognized we have a problem. I have begged for six months for some help.
"I think crime has hit most of the people in this city," she added. "This should be presented to the voters."
If the council decides to pursue funding for Tefank's entire package, it would mean roughly an 18% increase in the $13.3 million the Police Department is budgeted to receive next year. After initial equipment purchases, Tefank estimated that the new salaries and operating expenses would cost $1.8 million annually.
At the heart of the proposal is an $809,000 narcotics suppression unit that would add 10 sworn officers and two civilians for patrol and undercover surveillance.
Impact on the Street
"That would have a major impact on street activity, and it would enable us to work covertly to identify individuals involved in the trafficking of narcotics," said Tefank, adding that police made 1,700 narcotics arrests between January and November last year.
In addition to the narcotics unit, Tefank has asked to form a four-man civilian field unit to take property-related crime reports, add 10 positions to the traffic enforcement division, restore five positions cut last year and boost aerial patrols by adding four positions and purchasing a second helicopter.
The council last month voted to spend $150,000 to expand aerial patrols from two to five nights a week, but the money will come from a one-time draw on reserve funds and the increase will not continue into the next fiscal year.
Although Tefank said drug activity in Pomona had not increased dramatically in the last year, he termed it a persistent problem that plagues all major metropolitan areas.
"If you look at other communities of comparable size, they are also experiencing the same kinds of problems," Tefank said. "Unfortunately, as long as society has a need to utilize drugs, there's going to be a law enforcement problem."
Struggling to battle drug-related crime with a hard-pressed police force, the City Council voted to support a major increase in police department manpower. Although no method of funding has been determined, city officials aid they were hopeful that voters would favor a public safety assessment district to finance the boost in service.