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Calif. PD to disband specialized response team due to staffing shortages

The team that investigates illegal gambling, blight and human trafficking will no longer be a part of the department

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The Merced Police Department will be disbanding its DART team due to staffing shortages.

Merced (Calif.) Police Department via Facebook

By Andrew Kuhn
Merced Sun-Star

MERCED, Calif. — The acting chief of Merced Police Department says the agency will be disbanding one of its key enforcement teams due to staffing shortages.

Chief Joe Weiss said in a message posted on the department’s Facebook page the department is disbanding its Disruptive Area Response Team, effective Monday.

The DART Team was established in 2014 by then-Police Chief Norm Andrade, to address quality-of-life issues in the community.

The team supplemented the Patrol Division by addressing problems like illegal gambling, blight, human trafficking and connecting with members of the community, according to authorities.

“Despite our efforts to recruit new and experienced officers coupled with several employees on extended leave, we continue to face staffing shortages,” a portion of the statement read.

Weiss said in the message the move is temporary.

Police said DART officers have worked with unhoused individuals as well as with nonprofit organizations and county agencies while aiding in services.

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According to the release, 98 sworn officers are employed by the Merced Police Department, which is about the same number of officers employed by the department in 2010.

According to the release, the department has faced the challenge of staffing the Patrol Division and other specialty units which are necessary to meet the community’s needs.

“We did not make this decision lightly, knowing how this would impact community members, businesses, and the DART officers who are very passionate about this work,” the statement read.

According to police, the disbanding of the DART Team will allow Patrol Division officers to fill voids in understaffed areas of the department.

Authorities said that as the department grows and positions are filled with qualified professionals, the department anticipates reestablishing the DART.

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