New officer hires allow Paso police to respond to all traffic collisions

mfountain@thetribunenews.comMarch 31, 2014 

— Thanks to a recent staffing increase, the Paso Robles Police Department is back to responding to all traffic collisions within the city.

About three years ago, department administration made the decision to stop sending officers to the scene of non-injury traffic collisions because of reductions in the police force, what the department called a result of the economic recession. At the time, staffing had been reduced by approximately one third compared to 2007 levels.

According to Police Chief Robert Burton, the department had 41 sworn officers at the end of 2007. By 2012, the department was down to 26 officers, only 13 of which were assigned to patrol.

“We couldn’t do it all, and we had to look for some way we could manage,” Burton said.

However, in 2013 the City Council authorized the hire of additional officers. As of February, the department staffed 33 sworn officers, and 24 of those are assigned to patrol duties.

“In addition to providing better customer service to the community, taking all traffic collision reports will allow the Police Department to accurately report the number of traffic collisions to the State of California,” the department said in a news release Monday morning.

Doing so will qualify the department for grant funding from the Office of Traffic Safety and will better help the city determine which roads require better attention.

According to Burton, each full-time patrol officer costs the city of Paso Robles a maximum of roughly $125,000, including base salary and benefits. Officer wages are paid from the city's general fund and approved annually by the City Council.

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