Police officers and firefighters urge residents to vote yes on measure J-20
–As Paso Roblans carefully consider whether to support Measure J-20, the Paso Robles Police Officers Association and the Professional Firefighters Association would like to offer some insight as to why we strongly endorse J-20. After reflecting on J-20’s positive impact to public safety, we hope you, too, will consider voting YES on J-20.
We fully understand that many community members are uncomfortable with any new tax measure, and Paso Roblans have historically rejected them. So why then are your Police and Fire Associations endorsing J-20 so strongly?
Your Paso Robles Police and Fire Departments are some of the busiest in San Luis Obispo County per capita. In addition to protecting 32,000 residents and nearly 1.4 million tourists each year, our aging population, and expanding City borders have all conspired to increase our call volume beyond our capacity to effectively respond to all emergencies.
The problem facing our community, then, is that as the need for emergency services grows, our police and fire staffing has lagged behind demand. For example, the Fire Department runs approximately 4,000 emergency calls each year from 2 fire stations making it the busiest fire department in SLO County. With only 31 firefighters protecting 32,000 residents, we operate at a ratio of 1 firefighter per 1,000 residents. The National average is 1.4 firefighters per 1,000 residents. Lack of adequate staffing combined with high call volume naturally leads to extended response times to emergencies. In 2019, all first-due apparatus were committed to emergencies 249 times (average 0.7 times per day) leaving no additional firefighters to respond to 911 calls. Response delays unnecessarily place our community members at risk because our firefighters may not be available when someone calls 911.
Similarly, the Police Department consists of 36 sworn officers, which equates to a ratio of 1.1 officers per 1,000 residents. The National average is 2.2 officers per 1,000 residents. With such limited staffing, officers are often unable to quickly respond to emergencies. In 2019, for example, officers were significantly delayed to 2,599 emergency calls. Strikingly, the average response time to a 911 call in Paso Robles is 15 minutes. The National average is 10 minutes. To further complicate staffing concerns, each time an officer books a prisoner into County jail, that officer is taken out of service for at least one-and-a-half hours, leaving just 2-3 officers to cover a City of 32,000 people. Because of reduced staffing, officers operate reactively rather than in a more traditional (and safer) proactive posture, and the department has been forced to eliminate the gang enforcement and narcotics units, which opens our community to drugs and violent crime.
If Measure J-20 were to pass, the 1-cent general sales tax increase will generate approximately $10 million each year. Because Paso Robles is a world-famous tourist destination, out of town visitors are expected to generate approximately 40% of the J-20 sales tax. J-20 funds are legally obligated to be monitored by an independent oversight committee and will be used to hire additional police officers and firefighters. J-20 funding will be used to build and staff a 3rd fire station, further reducing response times and enhancing firefighter safety. The passage of Measure J-20 will allow the City to adequately staff the police department, leading to a significant decrease in response time. Your police department will be able to restore the gang enforcement and narcotics units and get back to proactive policing. This type of public safety growth is simply unattainable without the passage of Measure J-20.
For all of these reasons, the Paso Robles Police Officers Association and the Paso Robles Firefighters Association urge you to support Public Safety and vote YES on Measure J-20.