Menifee city and police officials admit it's a struggle keeping up with the city's rapidly growing population, but they say they're doing all they can to provide additional law enforcement to meet the increasing demand.
The city council last week approved a contract extension with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department through June 30, 2017, adding one motor officer to the Menifee Police Department and patrol hours equivalent to two additional patrol deputies to the next city budget.
The motor officer will come on payroll July 1, following approval of the city's 2014-15 budget. Later in the summer, 10 hours will be added to the department's daily staffing hours, in effect bringing on two more patrol officers.
According to Menifee Police Chief Mike Judge, the amount of law enforcement per city is figured in man hours, not bodies. He manages patrol shifts according to need throughout the month. The budgeted law enforcement hours per day in Menifee's contract with the county is 110, and will increase to 120 later this summer.
Depending on how many hours per shift you account for, that means there will be anywhere from 10 to 15 officers patrolling Menifee in the average 24-hour period. That number usually is broken down into two or three shifts per day.
"I can't say that today we have five officers on the day shift and tomorrow will be the same," Judge said. "It's my job to look at the crime statistics and distribute the law enforcement to meet the demand."
City officials often point to a county guideline of one officer per 1,000 residents. That, of course, would leave Menifee well short of the suggested number. Even when you add "dedicated" officers (administration, etc.) to Menifee's new total of 23 patrol officers, the total police force leaves Menifee's ratio at about .55 officers per 1,000 residents.
"It's a hard situation to explain," Judge said about the statistics. "Don't get hooked on the numbers. You have to look at where the spikes in crime are and make adjustments.
"My hat's off to the city staff and council. They're in a very tough fiscal position and they're trying to increase the numbers."
Rob Johnson, city manager, stressed the importance of increasing the police force during last week's council meeting. The city already devotes about 40 percent of its budget to law enforcement.
"Public safety is a priority, and council has a very clear desire to add more law enforcement," he said. "The population is increasing faster than property and sales tax. We're doing the best we can right now, even though it's not to the level Chief Judge would recommend."