GREENFIELD — Greenfield’s Interim Chief of Police Tony Sollecito is busy “making sure that the (Police) Department is in good shape” to hand over when a new permanent chief is hired. By December, Sollecito will have completed the 960 hours he is allowed to work per California Retirement System regulations.
Sollecito said the public has the misconception that the mayor and city council are the ones who hire a police chief, but it is the city manager that does the hiring. For now, he is working on a variety of projects.
One project is the hiring of four full-time sworn-in officers to fill vacant commander and sergeant positions. The recruitment process will continue until all positions are filled. The department is currently reviewing applications and conducting background checks.
When asked what the ideal number of police officers is to have in a rural community like Greenfield, Sollecito said, “As many as we can get.” How many officers a department hires depends on a variety of factors: revenue available, city’s crime rate and ability to recruit officers.
Recruitment poses its own challenges for rural police departments. Isolation and lower salary are two of them, according to Sollecito. It is difficult to compete with larger cities that have more to offer. Sollecito stated that one of the reasons why his department may attract more officers who grew up in the area is because they may feel less isolated than those coming from larger cities.
Sollecito has also observed that disparity in pay between higher ranking officers and those starting off is less at the Greenfield Police Department than in other departments. Making the disparity less is one way to show starting officers that they are valued. What Greenfield has to offer is job satisfaction.
“Working here, the officers get respect, are appreciated, and get the tools they need to do their job,” Sollecito said.
Another position that Sollecito would like to see added to the current 23.5 staff roster, which includes a half-time investigator and a full-time detective, is a full-time code enforcer. For now, all officers are responsible for responding to code violation complaints, such as vehicle abandonment. Once officers respond, they mark the vehicle and the owner has 72 hours to move it.
However, emergency calls take priority; therefore, it may take a while before an officer will respond to a code violation complaint. When asked what problem is a priority, Sollecito said, “Eradicating gangs,” because of the type of crimes that they bring to the city, like drugs and violence.
Sollecito would also like to see what he describes as a “fabulous facility” better utilized. One of the spaces is the holding cell or temporary detention center, but that will require getting an architect to work on the existing plans. Another space is the weight room. Sollecito stated that if the weight room were moved, the officers might use it more often because it would give them more privacy.
Lastly, Sollecito would like for the public to “come forward and report crimes.” He said that he understands that people are afraid of repercussions, but that witnesses can ask to speak confidentially to the officers. The public has the option of calling in anonymously. The number to call is 1-800-78-CRIME (27463).