Police chief believes public safety is city’s No. 1 priority

Should the city support arts and culture? Or the police department? Does it have to be either or?

Not according to Walnut Creek Police Chief Joel Bryden.

I spoke with him Monday morning, and I mentioned one of the debates raging on this blog with regard to the city’s proposed budget for 2010-12, which the City Council will begin working on Tuesday night. The debate has to do with the impression that city staff is not making the police department and public safety more of a priority in these very tough economic times. Some readers believe that funding for the Arts, Recreation and Community Services should take more of a hit. The thinking here is that when times are tough arts and recreation programs are expendable. 
“Stick to the basics that cities have to proivde like cops, streets, keeping the parks clean etc.,” wrote one reader. “Let private groups step up for the arts and recreation stuff. Since so few people use those services regularly they should be willing to volunteer or pay extra.”
Bryden believes that public safety is the No. 1 priority in the city.

He acknowledges that yes, the department could always use more money and more officers. Any police department could. But he said he and the police department participated in discussions that took place with regard to the budget, and the department came up with its own list of programs that could be restructured or frozen positions that would not be filled. He added what City Manager Gary Pokorny emphasized last week: none of the 33 possible layoffs taking place in other city departments would affect the police department.

In budget documents prepared for Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, the police department proposes that two police officer positions be changed to a per diem basis starting in 2011 and that one position for watch commander/lieutenant and one for a police officer be unfunded. The department could also save money by reducing overtime and retire one police car, and that the city earn additional revenues by operating a tow yard.
“We told them what we could afford to lose while keeping the city safe and maintain the level of service that we have now,” Bryden said.

Here are some more specifics of what budget documents say about spending on police, as well as on and arts, recreation and community programs and on other departments.

–The police department budget could be cut by 2 percent in the coming fiscal year,  public services by 2 percent, and arts, recreation and community services by 6 percent. The biggest hit—of 24 percent—is to general government. In 2011-12, expenditures for police and public services could increase slightly, funding for arts and recreation will go down 2 percent. Again, the biggest hit (47 percent) would be to general government.

–In terms of which department in Walnut Creek will likely get the biggest piece of the budget pie in 2010-12, that would be the police department: 35 percent. Arts, Recreation and Community Services would get 20 percent. 

23 thoughts on “Police chief believes public safety is city’s No. 1 priority

  1. Most cities around us spend well over 50% of their budget on their police dept. I love and respect our cops and they do a great job for us, but I never see one patrol my street. They are too busy on weekend nights dealing with the bars downtown. What about us, the people who live here? What could Bryden do with another $8 million of budget money for his department (which is what 50% of the budget would give him)? How many more cops would that hire? What kind of new technology could they afford?

    WC City Council wants their cake and to eat it too, and it seems they are getting their way. 12+ million on Arts and Recreation is nothing short of reckless in these tough times. How much of that $12M is operating costs for the library? You can bet it's buried in there. I heard that the annual cost to operate the Council's Sacred Cow is somewhere between $2-3 million per year. Soccer Mom can you confirm this or better yet even compare what this cost is compared to the former library's operating cost?

    Although Bryden is a good police chief and his officers seem to respect and like him (unlike his predecessor from what I know), he is not foolish enough to speak out publicly against the City Manager or the City Council.

    We need to oust the incumbents up for re-election this year for blowing $40+ million on a library we can't afford and didn't want. They were advised to scale it down but thumbed their noses at us. Silva is the worst of the 3, but they all need to go. Show your outrage at the polls in November.


  2. Anon 4:19 — I'm so sorry that you never see a Police patrol car in your street. Maybe you just live in the wrong neighborhood? I'm sure there are streets in Oakland or Richmond where you could see patrol cars multiple times every day. Have you considered moving?


  3. Anon 4:19 – The entire budget proposal is available online for people who want to do actual research and not just speculate about what they “heard.”


    If you read the budget, you might notice that the Arts and Rec department is also the largest revenue source for the city, behind taxes. In addition to the 9+ million in actual fees contributed, it would be interesting to know what percent of taxes are contributed by non-residents who visit the city's parks, take classes, or see shows and art at the Lesher Center (i.e. those who come here because of the city's cultural wealth) and also eat and shop in Walnut Creek — they're paying for your precious cops, too. But hey, if you prefer a city that's just a giant shopping mall with a cop on every corner, I suppose that's an option as well. (And, sadly, block after block of Neimans and Pradas would probably draw more visitors than the arts, but who wants to live in that world?)

    Soccer Mom is accurate in speculating that it's not an either/or, and the departments should make proportional adjustments to reflect that balance. Page A-7 of the Summary breaks the budget changes down clearly and shows that the cops are making out quite nicely in these hard times.


  4. 4:19 doesn't seem to appreciate the Arts dept and what it brings to the community. That being said, The Council blew it by building that library. I agree, they need to go. I just hope whoever runs against them has more brains and listens to the residents.


  5. 4:48 & 5:53,

    It is hopeless to use logic with 4:19pm, who is hopelessly mired in bitterness and cynicism. I think that some backwater one-horse town would be a better place for 4:19 to live.

    As for Soccer Mom doing the research tasks for 4:19, as requested, I am sure she would be happy to at her standard charge rate. She does need to put food on her table. Or 4:19 could learn how to do research on the City's website, where thorough information is available. Oh, but that would require effort! The easiest job in the world is that of a cynic. You never have to actually DO anything.


  6. 43,000 people with Walnut Creek addresses have library cards. What other public amenity serves such a large proportion of our community?

    The last two City Council elections were focussed on the library as a primary issue. The anti-library candidate lost big-time on both occasions.

    Who will come out publicly as the anti-library, anti-arts, anti-park, anti-growth, anti-business, anti-job, anti-school candidate this time? Or, alternatively stated, who will come out as only public safety and nothing else?


  7. 4:19 you really just sound bitter that the Police is not patrolling your street. Why don't you enlighten us how you are the victim of a high rate of crime due to this lack of patrolling? Otherwise your argument is just shallow.

    I personally would not enjoy to live in a community where 50% of the budget goes for Police. As a matter of fact I have been living for more than 15 years in the Wild Oak area in an un-incoporated county area. I don't think this is a high priority area for the CC Sheriff department (and I would guess they have even less fund to patrol my neighborhood as compared to WC) but I have never felt unsafe.


  8. We all need a balance in life. There is room for a little funding of the arts and recreation, but I do agree that we need to keep the Police Department well funded.

    Other cities nearby that are dealing with crime such as Concord, Pittsburg, and Antioch. We need to increase the visible Police presence and keep crime from spreading to our city. Criminals could easily cross the borders. Just look at all of the upscale houses that criminals could rob in Walnut Creek.

    More money should go to the Police Department to protect our city. Our safety is more important that a few arts programs that not everyone takes advantage of. We need to be tough on crime or else criminals will just walk right into town and rob us blind. It is especially important to have visible police cars around the Bart station. Criminals from Oakland, Baypoint, and from other cities can get here by Bart. We need to show that we have a police presence.


  9. 8:21 PM,

    We have BART Police to patrol the BART stations. I don't want to pay for more Walnut Creek police to patrol the BART stations! The BART police are paid for by BART.

    Once people leave BART, they are the responsibility of our local officers but also our citizens. We should keep our eyes and ears open to assist our local law enforcement officers.

    Every Walnut Creek resident should put this WC Police dispatch number into your cell phone: 925-935-6400. This is much better than calling 911. Otherwise you may reach California Highway Patrol and need to be re-routed.

    If you want to establish a Neighborhood Watch group for your neighborhood, please call the same number listed above. In our neighborhood, we have helped arrest the perpetrators of both of the major burglaries on blocks in the past year.

    Thanks you, members of the Walnut Creek Police Department for making Neighborhood Watch a success and for your efficient and effective response when bad things happen!


  10. Kids safety comes first. The city needs to continue to fund the crossing guard program…all else pales in comparison.


  11. 9:17,
    Are you willing to volunteer as a crossing guard or to help recruit them? If not, your argument does not ring true. I was a crossing guard myself growing up.


  12. Well SW it looks like you got Cindy Silva and her library allies to join the discussion. Clearly they are posting here. A couple questions for them:
    How much money does Walnut Creek spend on Arts and Rec funding compared to other cities in the area? Please name a single city in this county that spends 1/4 of the total Walnut Creek does?
    Why are we saying there are only two police officers positions vacant when there are 4 and a 5th by the end of the year?
    How about commenting on the other empty police positions like the 2 dispatchers, 1 PSO and a soon to be vacant civilian police manager?
    Does the police department have more officers patrolling the street now than they did 20 years ago?
    Has the city population grown since that that? How about the numbers of cars, diners, shoppers and people working in town?
    Which city department is taking the largest cut in dollars this year (you left these figures out SW)?
    Administrative Services 5,454,623 5,399,408 (55,215) -1%
    Community Development 4,727,936 4,252,545 (475,391) -10%
    Public Services 13,497,555 13,238,111 (259,444) -2%
    Police 23,212,040 22,354,239 (857,801) -4%
    Arts, Recreation and Community Services 13,669,038 12,898,653 (770,385) -6%
    General Government 3,175,891 2,400,169 (775,722) -24%
    Totals 63,737,083 60,543,125 (3,193,958) -5%
    Do any of these cities spend less than 50% of their General Fund spending of Police funding: Concord, Pleasant Hill, Richmond, Pittsburg, Antioch or Martinez?
    Who of the above cities has far and away the lowest overall police officer pension costs including retiree medical costs? Is there anyway to prove the above-perhaps a third party study for the city of Lafayette examining this very issue?
    I understand Ms. Silva has an election to win this year and would like to ignore this issue or at a minimum cloud the facts. However Walnut Creek's leaders should be willing to answer the above queations honestly and openingly. Hiding behind the fact that no city employee will openly question you does not make you right.


  13. 12:11,

    The city budgets for all local towns are on-line. Are you capable of doing your own research?

    If not, I am happy to answer all of your questions. I do contract work @ $60/hour. I'm not inexpensive to hire but I do excellent work and I can provide great references over the last 30 years to that effect.

    If you are interested in having me do your research, contact Soccer Mom. She has my contact information.


  14. O, Oh! Pick me! Pick me! ***hand raised***
    #1 and 2)WC spends 21%, soon to be 20%, of General Fund dollars on Arts, Rec and Community Services. None of the cities you mention are close. Not even in the ballpark.
    #3 and 4)Hummm. Because there are elections to win and no one wants to admit we are cutting cops and other police positions when the city can clearly afford it and the demand for police services continue to rise. Not to mention we are opening a new library soon. Have you heard about that?
    #5 and 6) With the 4, and soon to be 5, empty police officer positions there is one less officer than there was in 1987. That's right, 1987. Think Footloose and Back to the Future-that long ago. And the city is a much more happening place than it use to be (can you say BAR SCENE!).
    7) Oh! I can read-the Police Department is taking the biggest hit this year. Over $800,000.
    8)Nope, none of those cities spend less than 50% of their general fund on the police. Some are up in the 55% range.
    9)This one's easy. Walnut Creek has the lowest pension costs. You said so yourselfs in the community newsletter the Nutshell last year 😉
    10)Oh, I got this one too! Yes there is a way to verify the above. Check out the MATRIX GROUP study on pension costs related to starting up a police department for the City of Lafayette. Contracting with the City of Walnut Creek was by far the cheapest alternative due to low officer pension costs. Over a million bucks cheaper than the next cheapest option of forming a Lafayette Police Department and many millions cheaper than staying with the Sheriff's Office.
    SCORE: 100%
    *****does happy dance*****


  15. Daffodil, it looks like your services are not required. Check with the City Council members and other community groups posting here that function with city tax dollars. They clearly are in need of more than a consultant however. Maybe they can hire Silva's consulting company. She still getting paid by the Library Foundation? Or are the Dudums paying her directly?


  16. 1236: Sorry but no one's interested in facts here. Please pipe down. You are bringing up uncomfortable questions when we are so close to the library opening. A slow deterioration of our quality of life we can handle. Only the few unfortunate victims will notice. Now if those pesky cops can just keep any major crimes out of the spotlight we can soon open the city coffers again for every pet project and community group under the sun.


  17. Police Chief's can be fired for looking at a City Manager the wrong way. Unlike regular employees a chief can be fired for anything, including political reasons. No Chief in their right mind would disagree for the City Council.


  18. Again with the blither postings?

    Go post on the FOX news website or something.

    You don't always have to excercise your freedom of speech. Isn't the fact that it is there good enough for you. Blah blah blah.


  19. Just to correct the posters that think that parks is part of Arts and Rec. They are not. they are in public service.

    Second Arts and Rec don't bring in enough revenue to keep the doors open at the theater. They receive money from the general fund to make up the difference.


  20. A very good qualified mechanic at the city's corp yard is getting laid off. Great guy, great attitude and talented to keep the city's fleet running well. Sorry buddy we need to fund the arts programs…shame!

    Vote the incumbents OUT!


  21. Anon 248: If I wanted to post on FOX I'd say what's up with the Times Square bombing and all the other recent attempted attacks? Wasn't Obama going around hugging all of our enemies and giving speeches about how bad America is suppose to make all the bad guys put down their weapons and love us?


  22. 12:36 poster-If that's all true it is quite eye opening. I was under the impression Walnut Creek PD has always been the top paid department in the county and the only one requiring a BA degree to be hired. As a 35 year resident I always took a little pride in our town and our police and I believe they are worth every penny. I'm not sure that's all correct but if it is I'd like to have our city leaders explain why.


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