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Calif. police department considers stopping responses to alarm calls amid shrinking force

Interim Police Chief Jason Ta said that of the 3,627 of the alarm calls that Vallejo police responded to in 2022, 98% turned out to be false alarms

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Photo/Vallejo Police Department

By Daniel Egitto
Times-Herald, Vallejo, Calif.

VALLEJO, Calif. — Vallejo residents will soon get the chance to weigh in on a proposed plan to have police change their response to alarm calls —and potentially stop responding to these calls altogether.

The Vallejo Police Department will be hosting the first of at least two town hall meetings on the topic Aug. 8 at 6 p.m. in the Vallejo Room at 505 Santa Clara St., Vallejo, according to a Friday press release.

Interim Police Chief Jason Ta said earlier this week that, given Vallejo’s shrinking police force, it’s getting harder and harder for his agency to justify responding to alarm calls. He said that of the 3,627 of these calls that Vallejo police responded to in 2022, 98% turned out to be false alarms.

“There was no crime there,” Ta said. “There was no burglary. There was no vandalism. There was nothing to warrant any kind of police action. Ninety-eight percent were false.”

Officers spend about 23 minutes responding to each call. So, the police chief said false alarms take up about 115 hours of his department’s time every month.

With just nine supervisors and 34 officers available for patrol, Ta said police have been researching “eliminating or changing our response to alarm calls.” The Vallejo Police Department is currently in talks with the city attorney’s office about how to make it legal to implement this change.

News of the upcoming town hall comes just days after Vallejo declared a state of emergency over its police officer shortage.

The Vallejo City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to give Ta and City Manager Mike Malone the power to make unilateral decisions regarding the city’s public safety. This means the two officials will not have to confer with either the council or the Vallejo Police Officers’ Association before making decisions about the city’s law enforcement.

Potential future actions include judgment calls on whether to extend officers’ shifts, bring back retired officers to perform certain tasks or call in officers from other law enforcement agencies to help patrol Vallejo.

“In times of great challenge with limited resources, decisive leadership is required to identify priorities, obstacles, and solutions,” Ta said in a Wednesday statement about the state of emergency. “These are difficult discussions and even harder choices. I am optimistic that city leadership, elected officials and the police department can collaboratively formulate a public safety plan that can immediately enhance community safety.”

Altering responses to alarm calls is just one of several ways police are reducing their role in Vallejo as officers continue to leave the force.

With an average police dispatch time of almost an hour and a half, the Vallejo Police Department has already disbanded its traffic division and begun rotating one detective per week to work a patrol shift.

The agency has lost five officers since March, according to city documents. An additional three officers are scheduled to leave in the next month.

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