Mammoth Police Chief Dan Watson has confirmed that three of his men have tested for positions with the Mono County Sheriff’s Office. Chief Watson said Mono County is “conducting background checks on three officers.” If these three men leave, Mammoth Police Department could lose a total of eight officers by July of 2013, leaving only nine on board.
Faced with the payoff of $30 million in debt in September, the Town Council called for a cut of seven police positions. Although, at their last meeting, at least three councilmen denied their previous statements and claimed what they really meant was they wanted a $1.1 million cut in the Police Department, and it’s up to Chief Watson to figure it out. This was viewed as an attempt to switch public pressure from the Council to the Chief.
The early proclamation that the Police Department would lose seven positions sent morale tumbling and officers looking for jobs somewhere else. That early message has driven away four officers so far with the possibility of three more.
The Town of Mammoth cuts to the police department will not take effect until July 1st of 2013, and so, as strange as it seems, Chief Watson will actually start to recruit for officers. The Chief said, “Technically, I can hire up to the current strength.” Watson said he will tell recruits that their job may not be here after July 1st, but he pointed out that officer numbers will drop to nine and under Town cuts, the Department can maintain ten officers.
Chief Watson said all of this could change if the Police Officers Association makes concessions to save positions. Watson said he has to plan for the worst case scenario of ten officers by July 1st. Since personnel costs in the Department amount to more than 75% of the budget, the cuts will come out of personnel in some way.
The situation has created angry feelings. So did comments by Mayor Pro Tem Rick Wood. At the last Council meeting, Wood said that there was “not even a whimper” from other employees who took cuts in the last three years – a comment perceived as a back-handed slap to police for publicly criticizing the Council for their policies.
Councilmembers continue to repeat that they just don’t have enough money to pay for police under the huge debt burden and hard times. Privately, officers say their Department was cut from 23 officers down to 17 and police took larger pay cuts than other associations in the same time frame.