STOCKTON – Chief Eric Jones shared a cup of coffee, while residents in South Stockton shared their concerns. This is the fourth casual meeting Jones has set up with a Stockton neighborhood where he and other officers listen to neighbors voice their opinions and ask questions about the police force.
When Ken Kinler moved into his new home in Sierra Vista, he soon had a problem with one family making threats.
“We were on pins and needles,” said Kinler, who was told to file a report online. “We didn’t know if we were going to survive. My son’s life was threatened. I was threatened.”
He said it took five days for an officer to come out and resolve the feud.
“For those five days, I was really scared. I’m just going to say it, we were scared.”
Sierra Vista community leader Georgia Brownlee said she wants to see nightly patrols.
“They know what time our community police officer leaves,” said Brownlee. “He leaves at seven. A lot of people steal gas, the kids run around here destroying stuff, and then we have people from the outside that come in and bring the heat in our community.”
Chief Jones said since he took over the department, he’s been trying to rebuild the police force.
“The rebuild of the department is going to take time,” said Jones. “Again, it being very strategic, we’re working with small groups at a time, so it’s going to be awhile before we see some long-term effects, but it’s the only way we can do it.”
Jones’s strategic plan includes Operation Ceasefire, which joins religious and community organizations to reach out in the neighborhood and address ways for better community policing. Jones said joint agency task forces will continue to serve search and arrest warrants.
Jones also hopes the new tax revenue from Measure A will help hire 120 officers in the next three years. Recruitment, however, is slow. Only one officer was sworn in last week, shortly before more than 20 officers were involved in a hostage pursuit and shootout in which one hostage was killed.
“If we just look at the fact they were engaged in a gun battle, that alone is very difficult for an officer,” said Jones. “The fact that it did not have an absolutely perfect outcome, that’s difficult on the police officers.”
Before the Stockton Police Department can hire from the Measure A revenue, it must meet its maximum force at 365 officers. It’s currently down seven officers.