The City Council voted unanimously Monday, Dec. 10, to allow the Seal Beach Police Department to hire three more police officers. The police chief’s goal is to have 38 officers on the force.
SBPD currently has 35 officers, but one officer has retired and another is leaving. According to the staff report, the decision will increase the number of sworn officers to 38. The money to pay for the officers will come from Measure BB, a 1 cent sales tax, which voters approved last month.
Earlier this year, the council voted to increase the number of SBPD officers to 35 with money taken from the swimming pool fund.
In related news, it is not yet known when a Police Services Study by Matrix Consulting will be completed. The study was commissioned in March 2018.
“I think this is what the community wants,” said Interim Chief Joe Miller, who will continue as interim chief following his retirement this month.
He said three new officers would have an impact. He said two would be at the police substation (which is located at the foot of the Seal Beach Pier) and one would be in Leisure World.
Miller said testing of prospective officers would begin Tuesday, Dec. 11.
District One Councilwoman Ellery Deaton, apparently concerned about pension costs, requested hiring new officers as much as possible.
Miller said Seal Beach would need lateral officers (experienced officers hired from another law enforcement agency) to get them out on the street as quickly as possible.
Deaton repeated her position that the more new officers, the better. She pointed out that the money from Measure BB was not limitless.
City Treasurer/Finance Director Victoria Beatley said the Measure BB money would go into a separate fund. The money would then be transferred into the Police Department’s fund.
The staff report to the council, prepared by Operations Bureau Commander Phil Gonshak, asked the council to direct staff to pay for the three new police positions out of Measure BB funds. Measure BB, a 1 cent sales tax increase that was approved by voters early November.
According to Gonshak’s report, staff doesn’t know when officers will be hired so the impact of hiring new officers on the current fiscal year budget can’t be predicted.
“Rather than requesting an estimated and likely inaccurate budget amendment for this fiscal year now, staff requests that the City Council approve the new positions, direct staff to fund the new positions solely out of the separate Measure BB fund, account for and report the new salary expenditures at the end of this fiscal year, reconcile the 2018-19 fiscal year budget accordingly, and include the new positions in the FY 2019-2020 budget,” the report said.
The Gonshak report put the annual cost of each new officer at $179,500, or $15,000 a month. Measure BB is expected to bring in $5 million.
The sales tax will go into effect in April 2019. It will be another three months before city officials know how much money Measure BB generated that month.
Voters cast 7,867 votes for the measure and 5,564. Measure BB, official entitled “Seal Beach Neighborhood Safety and Essential Services Protection,” did not specifically apply the tax dollars to hiring police officers. The measure calls for annual auditing of the funds.
The language of the new law does not actually specify how the money is used. However, current council members have committed to using the Measure BB funds on police officers.
On Nov. 13, District Two Councilman Thomas Moore asked that the hiring of three more police officers be on the next City Council agenda.
In September, the council voted unanimously to approve a resolution supporting Measure BB, which the council had placed on the ballot.
At that time, District One Councilwoman Ellery Deaton said the council wanted to ensure residents that the council had heard the public and that the money from the sales tax increase would not go down a black hole.
For some time now, many Seal Beach residents have been calling for more officers to address a perceived increase in crime.
In October 2017, Interim Chief Joe Miller, speaking at a “Coffee with a Cop” event, asked if the public would support a tax increase.
One man at the “Coffee with a Cop” said the public would support a tax increase if Miller could guarantee that the money would be spent on police officers.