State wants to shift funds to parolees

Fewer police officers could be patrolling the streets of San Mateo County as part of a state plan to transfer “low-risk” parolees to the county’s probation departments.

Under a new proposal meant to narrow the state’s $14.5 billion deficit, the state would slash or redistribute three separate funding streams allocated to all police departments throughout the county. The funds saved would finance the transfer of some of the state’s “low-risk” parolees, excluding those on parole for violent or sexual crimes, to the supervision of county probation departments, according to state analysts.

The parole realignment plan, authored by the Legislative Analyst’s Office, would ease the workload on the state’s corrections staff and save California approximately $500 million, the analysts said. It is uncertain how many parolees would be released to the county.

Local police departments, in the coming months, could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars of state grants if the plan is approved. The loss in funding would be a stunning blow to the county’s crime rate and police response services, local law enforcement officials say. Many cities throughout the county are petitioning the state to reject the plan.

“It’s a major red flag … we’re probably talking about a hiring freeze, or making cuts,” said Peter Ingram, interim city manager for Redwood City. “Police and fire is well over half of our general fund expenditures.”

The Redwood City Police Department faces more than $853,000 in cuts, the most of any city in the county, according to analyst projections. Daly City would lose about $734,000 and San Mateo and South San Francisco would be cut about $559,000 and $485,000, respectively.

“When you’re talking about that much money lost, you really have no choice but to reduce the number of officers on the street,” said South San Francisco police Chief Mark Raffaelli.

How many officers would be lost is not yet clear, although the South San Francisco Police Department said it expects to cut at least three members on its staff of 79.

LAO analyst Paul Golaszewski said the proposal might mean less police officers, but that it would not affect crime. He said studies have not adequately proven that “putting more police on the streets reduces the crime rate.”

Most police disagree. A strong police presence in any community provides an air of safety that often forces criminals to commit crimes elsewhere, local police officials say.

“When you have enough of a police presence to cut down on the nickel-and-dime types of [crimes], you end up hearing that crooks don’t want to hang out in Redwood City. It becomes too much of a hassle for them,” Redwood City police Det. Greg Farley said.

maldax@examiner.com

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