The California Central Valley city of Stockton has been a poster child for the Great Recession, infamous for its housing developments filled with foreclosed homes, its tent cities along the San Joaquin River, and its horrendous 20% unemployment rate. As joblessness soared and the Central Valley economy withered, so did Stockton and its municipal finances.
"We absolutely do not have any narcotics officers, narcotics sergeants working any kind of investigative narcotics type cases at this point in time," Officer Pete Smith told Sacramento's Fox40-TV.
That was news to Mayor Ann Johnson. "It distresses me that we've had to go to this extent in terms of reductions in our police department," she told Fox40. But the mayor blamed police for failing to negotiate a way to avoid layoffs. "It's really up to our unions, our police union to come to the table to make concessions so we can save officers or rehire officers. It's all about finances," said Johnston.
Stockton police and their union have fought hard to avoid cutbacks, even as the budget axe decimates other city departments. Before last month's layoffs, the Stockton Police Officers Association launched a billboard campaign, the billboards dripping blood and screaming "People are Being Murdered in Stockton" and "Stop Laying Off Cops."
The cops are resorting to the same sort of scare tactics now, with spokesmen warning of a jump in crime because of the lack of a dope squad. "Drugs are a breeding ground for many other activities," said Smith, "and if these are going more and more unchecked, one would have to speculate that you're going to see a rise across the board in those types of criminal activities."
Time will tell. And perhaps the good citizens of Stockton will come to see that there are better ways to protect the public than spending their money on drug squads.