The 2021-22 Civil Grand Jury report, complied in June and released Sept. 7, is highly critical of the Hollister Police Department, saying that its staffing levels are “dangerously deficient” and expressing concern that none of the recommendations of the Novak Consulting Group Police Department Organization Assessment report, commissioned by the city of Hollister in 2019, have been implemented.
The goal of the Novak Report, which cost $44,000, was to “identify opportunities for improved efficiency and effectiveness” and to ensure the police department is “appropriately staffed to meet service expectations and community growth.” Implementing the changes outlined in the report would require adding 11 positions to the force at an estimated cost of $1.83 million.
The main recommendations include:
- Creating a traffic unit/specialization within the patrol
- Adding one detective position with a focus on property crimes
- Enhancing workload data collection—updating the records management system
- Establishing an audit process for investigations
- Considering the addition of one full-time police services officer to the Records Unit
- Enabling California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS) access at the public service officers’ computer terminals and police officers’ mobile data terminals
- Creating a multi-services officer position for evidence and property management
- Implementing a self-inspection/audit program for the evidence/property room
- Revising the cost-share methodology in the Animal Control and Shelter contract with San Benito County
- Creating management and supervisory capacity in Animal Control
- Transferring fleet and facilities responsibility to the training sergeant
- Reorganizing command structure as attrition allows—eliminating the captain position to enhance the relationship between the chief and the lieutenants
Hollister Police Chief Carlos Reynoso said that the biggest problem he has had in fulfilling the report’s expectations is the difficulty in attracting and retaining officers in a very competitive market.
“You have police departments fighting over the few qualified applicants out there,” he said. “Let’s say you want to be a cop, you have the mental and physical ability to be a cop, and you can pass the background checks. You are going to look at the top agencies, and the salary will be considered first. Often, Hollister does not make the list—not the top five and maybe not even the top 10. The best candidates gravitate to where compensation is better.”
Comparisons of monthly salaries for local police officers, quoted in the grand jury report, bear this out:
- Hollister – $6,700.57–$8,144.61
- Morgan Hill – $7,603.00 – $10,502.00
- Gilroy – $8,035.00 – $9,767.92
“I think the city is better financially than we were three years ago,” he said. “But we didn’t even ask for new positions this year because we already had eight vacant positions. Why should I ask the city for more funding for officers when I can’t even fill the positions I have open now? The competition is too great.”
Reynoso said the department gets a lot of applications, but many potential officers don’t pass agility tests or background checks. The problem, he said, is that fewer people are drawn to police work as an occupation.
“It has a lot to do with the current environment and what happened in 2020 when the actions of a few officers across the nation led to anti-police movements,” he said. “People who would otherwise have thought of going into law enforcement maybe decided not to do it. It is the same reason you see a lot of officers retiring early across the nation. You have people who are being criticized and accused of being terrible people because of the actions of other officers who do not have the same standards.”
Retention, according to Reynoso, is another problem, as officers seek greener pastures when they become available.
“If a qualified officer can go to Gilroy or Morgan Hill and make more money,” he said, “the only thing keeping them here is the work environment. But it is hard to be upset if they decide to leave. You can’t hold it against them. They have their own families and kids, and they have to plan for things like college. They are doing a fantastic job here, but there is nothing stopping them from leaving.”
Offering competitive salaries, Reynoso said, would make a big difference.
“I know we are not going to be able to pay what Gilroy or Morgan Hill pays,” he said. “But if you close that gap, people might think, ‘I could make 10% by leaving, but then I would have to commute.’ But we are working on the other part, which is making them understand that they are valued here.”
Despite that, Reynoso said a little progress had been made in increasing staff.
“The city has given us some new positions,” he said. “Those would be two traffic officers who are mentioned in the recommendations. And since then, we have absorbed two school resource officers after Hollister School District broke its contract with us. The city did continue funding for them to avoid layoffs.”
But regarding the kind of staffing recommended by the Novak report, it remains a manpower issue.
“For instance,” he said, “with the evidence portion, it is supposed to be two positions, and we hired a second person. But then the first person went out on a medical and ultimately retired. So we only had two people in that position for about three months.”
Another recommendation, eliminating the job of captain, was handled differently.
“When chief David Westrick was here, he wanted to create a deputy chief position,” Reynoso said. “His idea was to leave one captain and create two lieutenant positions. Essentially, the captain turned into a deputy chief, and the two lieutenants were doing what the captain was supposed to do. Their solution was to eliminate the captain position and keep the two lieutenants. We changed it to having two captains and eliminating the lieutenant positions.”
Reynoso said that his department is working on a full, formal response to the grand jury report and will be presenting it at the next City Council meeting in November.
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