STOCKTON — A fatal shooting outside of Sherwood mall in Stockton could have possibly been prevented if the Stockton Police Department was not short of 100 officers, according to the officer's union.
"There is a direct correlation between the increase in crime, specifically violent crime, and uniformed officers on the street." The quote is one of several from the Stockton Police Officer's Association in the last two months, all focused on the department staffing shortages that have led to officers being overworked.
Stockton has grown in population over the last decade. In 2021, U.S. census data reported the city's population was 292,262; ten years later, in 2022, Stockton's population has grown to nearly 330,000 people.
"Nobody is reducing the amount of work; there's just not enough officers to do it," said Patrick High, President of the Stockton Police Officer's Association.
High told CBS13 that eight SPD officers left the department this week, and more than 30 are eligible for retirement. This is on top of the 100 officer shortage.
"We're not the only agency having a staffing problem, but we're probably one of the biggest agencies having a staffing problem," said High.
On social media, the SPOA has turned to statistics to illustrate the shortage for the public. In an Aug. 6th post, the association noted that the Robbery Homicide Unit consists of 11 detectives currently, down from the 16 detectives and two sergeants when it is fully staffed.
"We are proud of the hard work and dedication of our detectives who boast higher than average clearance rates. However, they are extremely overworked as each individual homicide takes hundreds of hours of investigatory work, many hours of overtime, sleepless nights and weekends away from family. We are over 100 officers short. Given the current trend, our association will lose dozens more within the next several weeks. We will continue to make due with the tools we have available, but hard work and dedication alone are not enough to provide the level of service the citizens and city deserves.
High said multiple factors have played into the Stockton Police Department's shortage, including a lack of competitive pay and benefits. He said he hopes negotiations will change this within the next two weeks, and competitive rates will lead to more recruits and retention.
The worst-case scenario of the staffing shortage played out on Thursday outside of the Sherwood Mall in Stockton. Stockton police confirmed that one man died at the scene from a gunshot wound.
High told CBS13 that this deadly shooting may have played out differently if SPD was not short-staffed. The shortage, he explained, may lead to a delayed response to calls and inability for proactive police work.
In another post to social media less than 24 hours after two homicides within blocks of each other, SPOA leadership sounded off on the impacts of the staffing shortage, again.
"Yesterday's blatant daytime homicide at a local bank may possibly have been prevented with an increase in staffing and high visibility patrol in areas like the mall," an excerpt from the post explained.
High echoed this message to CBS13 on Friday, when he said the homicide investigators had yet to leave the office due to their 24-48 hour long shifts related to the investigation.
The level of service isn't impacted, High said, but officers are overworked, and the workload is not sustainable.
On Saturday, the Stockton Police Department will host a recruitment event on the Stagg High School football field.
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