The Orion

Lack of funding for police puts students in jeopardy


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Illustration by Liz Coffee

Illustration by Liz Coffee

As today’s front-page package suggests, a lack of investment in our city’s police force is putting students — and every other Chico resident — in danger.

There are 64 officers from the Chico Police Department currently patrolling the streets. The last time we had that many officers, the city was home to about 65,000 people. As of 2011, Chico had a population of 86,290.

Do the math. That means our police department is trying to serve almost 25 percent more people with the same amount of officers. Sound crazy to you? You’re not alone.

When the Chico City Council voted to adopt a budget this June that cut the city’s police force by 14 positions and reduced funding for firefighters, Chief Kirk Trostle warned that the city would face serious consequences.

Longer response times for 911 calls. The elimination of a mounted patrol. No officers to watch over the city’s elementary and middle schools. In other words, the new budget leaves our growing city with fewer people to watch over it.

This is unacceptable. About 16,000 students attend Chico State, and most of us live in Chico. Our students and professors contribute money, creativity and energy to this city, and we deserve to be protected by it.

While the city re-evaluates its priorities, there are steps students can take to make themselves or others more  safe.

Chico State students studying criminal justice might volunteer with the department in a support role without putting themselves at risk.

The school’s alumni or other Chico State supporters might donate money for new officers.

Students can also keep themselves safe by staying close to a friend at night.

But these are only short-term fixes. They don’t help us when we get mugged or when someone breaks into our house. Those situations require sworn officers and a city willing to invest in them.

There are long-term solutions, but they’re difficult to implement. No one wants to pay a sales tax to fund more officers, and no politician wants to face the political consequences of trying to get one passed. It’s hard to sit down and pass pension reform. It’s difficult to ask people who put their lives at risk every day to consider lower salaries.

But it’s impossible for us to be successful if we can’t even feel safe on the streets.

 

The Orion can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.

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Lack of funding for police puts students in jeopardy