SACRAMENTO – On May 17, 2017, the Assembly Budget Committee No. 3 Resources and Transportation, chaired by Assembymember Richard Bloom, reviewed the proposed budget allocations as a result of Senate Bill 1 which created a program to fund road maintenance and other transportation and safety projects. The allocation included $1 million to establish a recruitment and training program which would focus on hard-to-fill classifications including rangers and lifeguards.
During her testimony, Parks Director Lisa Mangat acknowledged the historical difficulty in hiring rangers and advised the committee that the lack of resources had resulted in a number of peace officer positions being swept from the department’s budget. Mangat also acknowledged, the once-a-year academy was equaling the positions lost due to retirement. She indicated the department was considering adding a second academy to take place annually in Southern California. The Director also stated there were ongoing discussions about adding a mid-level ranger position intended to target experienced peace officers.
Shane Lavigne of Capitol Advocacy had previously arranged meetings with California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) representatives, Resource Protection Peace Officers Association (RPPOA) President Matt Yarbrough, Assemblymember Bloom and his staff, as well as a meeting with the Budget Sub 3 consultant. Having been briefed on CSLEA and RPPOA’s concerns, the first question from the chair to Director Mangat was whether Parks was addressing the issues raised by CSLEA. Mangat responded that Parks management shared in the concerns over staffing and that though CSLEA also had concerns regarding the reorganization, they were basically on the same page.
When the chair opened the item for public comment, CSLEA Chief Counsel Kasey Clark addressed the committee and stated that much of the problem with the reduction was budgetary. However, CSLEA was concerned that Parks was not properly valuing its law enforcement needs and that there had been a reduction in allocated positions from more than 800 in 2001 to approximately 350 allocated (277 filled) positions right now. Clark noted that crime in the Parks was up and that staffing shortages could result in an underreporting of crime. He also stated that the changes in moving from a peace officer command structure by converting District Superintendents to civilian positions and potentially eliminating the peace officer Sector Superintendents created cause for concern that there would not be a sufficient command structure to handle critical incidents. Finally, Clark confirmed the deficiencies in the number of graduating cadets but also noted the mid-level range position would not likely be a viable option as peace officers coming from outside the State would have to accept a reduced pension benefit.
CSLEA and RPPOA are optimistic the hearing brought needed attention to these issues and that the focus will continue as the items move forward in the budget process.