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New Faces Contract Brings Police Changes
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Deputy Steve Webb was missing from his bailiff's position in the Riverbank City Council chambers last week and a much younger man, Deputy James Riley took his place.

Webb, a part time officer of some 30 years' standing, has fallen victim to layoffs among Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department staff, Riverbank Police Chief Bill Pooley told the council.

The Board of Supervisors required about 15 deputies cut countywide as of July 1 and the whole Sheriff's Department has taken a 5 percent pay cut.

The reshuffling required that all part time officers including Webb be laid off first before fulltime staff was reduced.

"But we do expect to hire him back pretty soon," Pooley added.

The agenda item before Riverbank council members was the city's approval of a $3.4 million contract with the Sheriff's Department for policing of the city for the 2010-2011 financial year. The county board is due to ratify the five-year contract sometime this month.

Pooley reassured council members that while the faces of the deputies here may change a little, their numbers will remain the same.

"Presently there are 20 sworn officers, three clerical support and one community services officer," he wrote in his memo. "The level of service (proposed) has been increased from .85 to one sworn officer per 1,000 residents. During the term of this agreement, the city plans to achieve this level of service."

There are two deputies on patrol here 24 hours a day seven days a week, he said, but they may not always have direct supervision by a local sergeant. Except during peak crime hours, their supervision may come only by radio from the Modesto headquarters.

While decentralization was in effect and the North Area Command based in Riverbank, many extra deputies moved in and out of the town and there were enough sergeants to have one always on duty. Now with the tight budget constraints and layoffs, that system has ceased and the staffing been withdrawn.

Pooley noted the only major change to the contract is a clause that allows the city to charge the county rent, utilities and janitorial services if decentralization returns at some future date. During the last decentralization that lasted about a year, the city made its facilities available for free in return for the increased staffing that came with the North Area Command and policing of the northeast part of the county from the city's station.

Citizen Charles Neal asked if the Riverbank force could do something to retain longtime officers (such as Webb) who know the town and are familiar to the community, suggesting that new officers inevitably are slower in response time.

Pooley replied crime in Riverbank is down, response times are as fast as ever and fresh officers can bring new talent and different areas of expertise.

Another citizen, Scott McRitchie, praised the Neighborhood Watch program and reminded all of the specialist services such as the bomb squad that come as part of the contract with the Sheriff's Department.

A year-old system of traffic enforcement that allowed local officers to fine minor offenders under the Municipal Code rather than the Penal Code and for the city to keep a third of the fine has been challenged by a Southern California senator and will probably be repealed under new legislation, Pooley added.