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PD talks compliance, staffing, equipment

While crime rates are down overall in Boulder City, it does not mean that the police department does not face challenges, some of which were outlined for the City Council in their meeting last week.

One challenge is not any different from one faced by larger departments.

“We’re seeing a lot of people who are not complying the way they used to in the past,” said Lt. Tom Healing. “And that has caused us to have to use force more frequently,” he continued, adding that this may result in the need for more and different kinds of training, which would have to be budgeted for.

Councilmember Steve Walton requested additional insight.

“You know the resistance to officers raises a grave concern,” he said. “Without giving away trade secrets, what are some of the tactics you are considering?”

Healing explained, saying, “Traditionally, in the past, we’ve relied a lot on our tools. Tasers, which can be effective but may not be effective. Batons, which you pull out to strike somebody with. The optics are terrible and the effectiveness is questionable at best. So what we have gone to is more of a ground-based control and restraint type of training. Not so much pummeling people into submission, but controlling them safely. Being able to just kind of wear them out and take them into custody safely.”

Training is key to making this approach work, Healing explained.

“What we’re seeing is that as we go through this training, the confidence of the officers is increasing,” he said. “Their abilities are increasing. And they go into these situations where they are able to talk their way out of it a lot more, knowing that they can handle themselves physically.”

Lt. Vince Ablowicz outlined an equipment issue.

“It has been a real challenge to get department vehicles,” he said. “At one point in time you were able to place an order and it would take about three months for the vehicle to show up.”

That is no longer the case, he said. “For instance, we ordered eight patrol cars last August, a little over a year ago, and we’re still waiting for half of them to show up. We’re losing cars left and right. Some of them are so old that the motors are blowing up even though they are properly maintained. They are rapidly approaching 100,000 miles-plus.”

Ablowicz called the pair of electric vehicles that the department has been using for almost a year a success.

He pointed out that with a gasoline powered car, they have to go into the shop for some type of required maintenance at regular intervals. But with the EVs, “that is not required,” he said. “You charge them up and it’s brakes and potentially tires. That’s all you’re going to do.”

Ruby Perkins, who oversees the dispatchers, pointed to issues with recruiting and retention. It is not a problem unique to Boulder City. Nationally, 82% of departments are understaffed she said and explained that BCPD has slots for eight dispatchers and one of those slots was vacant for about a year. The department recently hired someone for that slot.

And while all of the slots may be filled right now, Perkins made an impassioned case for adding four more dispatchers saying that ideal staffing is two people on a 12-hour shift. When the stars all align, that is the staffing BCPD is expecting. But if someone gets sick or “life happens,” they are down to just one person, which she said has been the “minimum staffing” level for at least 24 years.

“It’s a pace that is just crazy for two people, but when it’s just one, it’s overwhelming,” she said. “As the number of officers and firefighters continue to grow to serve our city, we’re not growing the staff to support them. We should be at minimum staffing levels of two at all times to cover the needs of our community To do that, we would need four additional dispatchers.”

Perkins noted that BCPD dispatchers answered more than 27,000 phone calls in 2022.

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