The launch of the Wasco Police Department is well underway and making substantial progress, led by Chief Charlie Fivecoat.
Working in conjunction with City Manager Scott Hurlbert and other key staff, Fivecoat says he has nearly completed all of the logistics needed for the startup. He will soon be entering into the recruitment phase of the project.
The tasks completed include the purchase of patrol vehicles, radios, computer-aided dispatch technology and weapons acquisitions.
"We have been blessed to acquire these items in a very tough supply chain environment," Fivecoat said in an interview last week.
He said the impact of the covid lockdowns greatly impacted the availability of everything, including radio equipment that requires up to 30 weeks for delivery.
"Fortunately, Wasco city staff – and I mean virtually everyone from City Hall, finance, public works, and certainly our city manager – have worked very hard as a team to help find alternatives and workarounds to meet our equipment requirements in a timely way."
The total spent to date for the logistic package is $563,000, with funding through the American Rescue Plan Act. This includes Fivecoat's and the police department records administrator's costs.
Fivecoat and the records administrator are housed in the old courthouse.
"We are installing our networks and equipment in the police services building where the sheriff operates," he explained.
The Kern County Sheriff's Office substation will be remodeled to accommodate a new 24-hour dispatch center and computer server room.
"We are excited to provide the citizens of Wasco with a police department that is open 24 hours each day with local emergency dispatch capabilities," Fivecoat said. "The Kern County Sheriff's Department has been very supportive with the transition process, and our working relationship with command staff and the newly appointed substation sergeant, Corey Stacy, has been outstanding."
Several patrol vehicles have been purchased, and they will be delivered soon and sent for graphics installation in a secured facility in Bakersfield.
With the recruitment component, Chief Fivecoat hopes to have a commissioned staff of 23. The initial startup will involve 14 police officers and six dispatchers.
Commissioned staff are actual police officers, and noncommissioned staff includes the police records administrator and dispatchers, he said.
"I'm looking for people who believe in the community and share my belief that together with our citizens, we can make a difference and protect each other."
The salary and benefit schedules are currently being compiled and will be sent to the City Council for review.
He said there would be local hires.
"We have already identified a few residents who may be interested in our department and who want to serve their fellow citizens."
Once the salary and benefits plans have been submitted to the council and authorization to start recruitment has been received, he will begin advertising through the City of Wasco website.
He will also use social media and professional organization websites, such as the California Peace Officers and Standards website, the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy Associates, and the California Police Chiefs Association, among others, for attracting candidates.
As far as the budget for the Police Department, he said it is being developed for the 2023-24 fiscal year and should be released soon.
The city currently pays about $4.2 million each year for the Kern County Sheriff's Office contract, and that money will be used to fund the Police Department along with other funding sources.
"We have applied for a federal COPS hiring grant to provide some of our commissioned staff. There is tentative approval for the fiscal 2023 year through a Home Security Grant for communications equipment and approved Public Safety Access Point funding for our 911 communications center."
For the transition period, the money to cover the costs of paying both will come from combined funding through ARPA and General Fund Measure X monies.
Chief Fivecoat is passionate about serving the community.
"This is a calling and really a blessing. I truly believe that. It's a tremendous amount of paperwork, but we are excited about it."
"I want to earn the public's trust to where people know when they have a problem, they can immediately reach us and will immediately try to help."
Of legislation that has made it more difficult to convict and detain criminals, "There are a number of measures designed to reduce the incarceration."
"I feel there has to be sustainable programs to deal with the societal problems or issues, but we are not there yet."
Chief Fivecoat said that the normal start-up period for a new police department has historically been between 18 and 24 months.
"We are hoping to shorten that time considerably."