Council candidate Christina Fugazi speaks at a May 3 forum.
District 5 council candidate Christina Fugazi has written an essay on her webpage about crime.
“There have been some distortions in the media about the two different approaches to public safety that exist in Stockton,” says Fugazi.
The distortion: “One camp has the only intelligent approach to the generational demographics that will finally allow the city of Stockton to get to the root causes of crime. We will call this group the “Smarties.” The other camp has a pitchfork, and mob mentality and all they want is more cops. We will call this group the “Neanderthals.”
“The Neanderthals look to cities across the United States that have successfully attacked their “generational” crime problem. New York, Los Angeles, and Boston … looked at criminal behavior as a human behavior that can be controlled through law enforcement …The Smarties believe that criminal behavior is to be controlled by getting to the root causes of crime. They believe our police department should focus on poverty, hunger, education, and economic opportunity to attack crime.”
The only place I have seen this simplistic, binary formulation about crime is in Fugazi’s essay. Anyway, having set up this straw man, she comes to the point:
“If you understand the Smarties focus you will understand why they have failed to focus on retention and recruitment of officers. Really, law enforcement plays a little role in fighting crime for the Smarties. That is why the Smarties have successfully implemented the “Office of Violence Prevention.” The Office of Violence Prevention is the key tenet of their approach. Getting qualified and experienced officers can wait but the Office of Violence Prevention cannot.”
This essay manages to be clever and wrong. Clever in its subtle anti-elitism: the media distorts, the elites look down on the “mob mentality.” Citizens know best. Unlike those ivory tower Smarties who are focused on long-term social solutions, the common-sense crowd favors meat-and-potatoes law enforcement such as officer retention and recruitment.
Wrong in that if Fugazi really believes that, she is misinformed.
Officer recruitment and retention is the city’s top priority. Over the past years, the city HR department has cut police hiring red tape, the PD replaced an unpopular chief with a respected chief and City Hall put a measure on the ballot, passed by voters, for a sales tax to fund hiring 120 cops.
If that isn’t a focus on hiring, I don’t know what is.
The city has worked with San Joaquin Delta College to transform its part-time academy into a full-time academy, and the police department has partnered with it. A recruitment tool.
New hires sign an agreement: if they leave within five years they must repay the city the $30,000 it spend putting them through the academy. A retention tool.
Meanwhile, the PD has formed a group for police wives, to knit them together socially, so that even if the husbands want to leave, the wives will want to stay. A retention tool.
There are other measures, too. But you get the idea.
The hiring rate of 40 officers a year is not fast enough for anybody. But let’s be realistic. The bankruptcy, which worries cops their compensation may yet be further cut, is still scaring some cops off. The regional market of surrounding law enforcement agencies that pay more is luring cops away. And, frankly, it’s tough here. A Stockton officer responds to a higher percentage of felony calls than the state average. Some officers are lured away by quieter towns.
To ignore these countervailing forces and attribute the pace of hiring to a city that’s basically soft on crime is wrong, at best. At worst, it ignores the intense pressure the city has put on itself.
“We also have to aknowedge there are issues with so many young officers,” Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said earlier this year. “That puts a tremendous burden on me and my officers and our training staff.”
A tremendous burden Fugazi ignores.
The city is not prioritizing social work over hook-’em-and-book-’em law enforcement. It has evolved a comprehensive strategy that combines both elements. The Marshall Plan was devised by top city/county/state law enforcement leaders. The District Attorney, the head of probation, gang intervention experts, the Sheriff, the Chief of Police and other experts are the guiding a revolution in law enforcement policy in Stockton, informed by an internationally renowned Harvard criminologist and best practices proven effective in other cities.
These are the Smarties Fugazi says are wrong.
Fugazi seem like an intelligent, engaged candidate. But her essay suggests she’s not well-informed about city law enforcement policy.