Pismo Beach police are adding a second bicycle officer downtown during the summer months, when the area is jam-packed with tourists and their vehicles.
“The town is so impacted now on the weekends, sometimes it can take 15 minutes to get downtown from the station,” police Chief Jeff Norton said. “Bike patrol and motorcycle officers are usually the best to respond to calls.
“The downtown pier area is a big tourism area, and it’s important that people and their families feel safe,” he added.
But the position probably won’t be filled until August, partly because of a combination of job openings and injuries that have strained the department’s resources this summer.
Police officials are in the process of hiring and training five new officers to replace those who have retired or accepted jobs elsewhere. Only one of the five new hires has completed the training so far.
A few other officers are currently out with injuries, including two officers who received knife wounds to their hands June 25 after a fight with a man they were attempting to arrest for trespassing, Norton said. When fully staffed, the department has 23 sworn officers and 34 total employees.
The new bike officer will fill a position that’s been frozen for about two years. The job, funded with an annual state grant of about $100,000, was left unfilled because of a concern that the state funding might stop in the midst of the economic crisis.
The money kept flowing, however, and was used instead to upgrade patrol vehicles with mobile data computers, license plate readers and other equipment.
With that project wrapping up, Norton requested the money be again used to fund the second bike patrol position.
Doing so will allow the department to have two bicycle officers downtown from mid-June through Labor Day, and maintain one bike officer downtown throughout the rest of the year.
During the summer, many calls for service — which have included reports of shoplifting, alcohol and drug violations, traffic accidents and disturbances in restaurants and bars — come from a five-block radius downtown, and bikes provide the quickest response, Norton said.
“We’re the only department that added a position back this year in the budget, and I think the council recognized the importance of getting that position filled,” he said.