Chief talks modern policing with council

Yuma Police Chief Jerry Thompson walked the council through the challenges facing today’s police departments during a Yuma City Council workshop held this past Monday.

The title of the presentation was “Keeping Current: The 411 on the Five-O – A Workshop on Daily Functions, Duties, and Requirements for Modern Police Departments.”

Mayor Ron Swehla, Mayor Pro-tem Marc Shay, Tim McClung, Jerome Benish and Terri Frame were in attendance. Marylu Smith-Dischner and Dan Baucke were absent. The workshop came before the council’s regular meeting held on Monday of this week.

Swehla said he asked the chief for the presentation as council members have heard a lot of talk about the police department’s body cameras, drones and more technology.

Chief Thompson said he always has been in favor of body cameras even before state law made it a requirement. However, after George Floyd, Colorado has passed laws about body cameras, and a newer law calls for more interactions to be downloaded for certain amount of time.

The YPD is equipped with body cameras and patrol vehicle cameras.

Thompson said a routine traffic stop takes about 10 minutes, with an additional 15 to 20 if a ticket is written. He demonstrated to the council all the information that needs to be entered along with the video footage, which is uploaded to the cloud-based storage after the officer returns to the office.

All videos are stored for anywhere from 10 days to up to 10 years, and the most serious cases are permanent.

McClung noted the time an officer spends on any interaction, and that it is a real money cost. He said he is asked why the YPD needs so many officers when there used to be just three or so, pointing to the increased time helping push that.

Thompson also went over the costs of just hiring an officer. It cost about $500 just to get on in the door due to physicals, psych tests and other paperwork involved. The basic cost for a uniform is about $2,400, including the ballistic vest, which must be replaced with a new one every five years. Then there are the firearms, ammunition, holsters, patches, the cameras, vehicles.

Sending an officer out of town for required training can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000, including lodging and meals, so the YPD tries to do all the training it can locally, Thompson said. Multiple trainings are required at least every five years.

Thompson was asked if costs could be reduced if the YPD made purchases with other departments. He said vendors have told him as such. He that has been done in Phillips County, where the sheriff’s office, and the Haxtun and Holyoke police departments have teamed up for technology purchases. The chief said there does not seem to be much interest in doing the same in Yuma County.

Look for more on the drones the city has purchased in an upcoming article.