The ongoing recession is forcing more and more LE agencies to cut services and personnel at unprecedented levels. In the six months since my March 5, 2010 blog "Can Your SWAT Team Survive the Great Recession?" the troubling economy has gone from bad to worse. Particularly in the bankrupt city of Vallejo, Calif.
Vallejo declared bankruptcy in May 2008, and by March 2010 the Vallejo Police Department had been forced to lay off 48 police officers. None have been rehired, and most have gone to work for other LE agencies.
Since March, approximately 12 more officers have also been laid off. So have a number of other city employees. And there have been dramatic cuts in city services, including the closing of two fire stations.
Then, in July 2010, Vallejo PD announced even more cuts that would go into effect. VPD road patrol officers would be going from one- to two-officer cars for officer safety reasons, now that Vallejo PD is down to only 95 officers from its previous 150. The hope is the latest round of cuts will avoid more VPD layoffs -- for now. In addition, paid overtime has been drastically reduced.
Vallejo Police also announced, effective July 31st, the 90-day "suspension" of all but one K-9 team and the entire 17-officer SWAT team. Both "suspensions" will be reevaluated after 90 days. No promises are being made for the future of either.
One K-9 team remains, with the hope that "outside" funding will somehow be found. It should be noted that it was only a few years ago when benevolent private groups raised funds to obtain donated K-9 armor to protect the VPD, and other LE agencies', K-9's. This, after the 2000 slaying of a Vallejo Police K-9 officer/handler and the critical wounding of his K-9 dog partner.
Vallejo, the largest city in Solano County (north of San Francisco), is a city of 116,000, the county seat, with a crime rate that keeps Vallejo PD "busy," often making the news for some spectacular crime.
The 17-officer Vallejo PD SWAT team combines with neighboring Benicia PD's six-officer SWAT team for callouts. However, the "suspension" of Vallejo PD's SWAT team means Benicia PD SWAT must rely on Solano County Sheriff's Department SWAT for assistance with callouts in the future.
This means Solano County SD, which is facing its own slashed budget, will now be stretched to the limit handling SWAT callouts in both "active" Vallejo and Benicia.
One result of Vallejo's ongoing bankruptcy troubles is something of a "ripple effect" involving both Benicia and all of Solano County. Meanwhile, as the threat of more layoffs within VPD continues to loom, the number of VPD officers looking to go elsewhere also continues.
Vallejo is far from alone in feeling the adverse effects of this lingering recession. The Bay Area city of San Carlos, Calif., recently disbanded both its entire police and fire departments. San Carlos police and fire services are now supplied by the county.
The recession has dealt a severe economic blow to the entire state of California, affecting the counties and cities. With no end in sight anytime soon, the saying "Do more with less" has never been truer than it is today.
The reality is California is also far from alone in feeling the economic effects from this recession. No doubt what's occurring in California is also happening throughout most of America today. All of law enforcement is being forced to make drastic cuts everywhere, across the board.
SWAT is no exception, as the Vallejo SWAT experience has shown. The message to SWAT teams everywhere is crystal clear: You need to do something to preserve your team now. Because if you don't someone else will do if for you. And it's a guarantee you won't like the results.
So, if you can see storm clouds looming on your SWAT horizon, do your best to ensure your team weathers the coming storm.
Let's hope that 90 days from now, we'll read that Vallejo PD SWAT has been reinstated and is back in business again.