GUSTINE - Local police have been taking a more pro-active approach and engaging the assistance of allied agencies to beef up law enforcement presence.

City Manager Doug Dunford said that, despite still being short-staffed, the department has taken a number of steps to make the most of its personnel.....in some cases with the assistance of outside resources.

The city has, for example, brought in officers from other agencies to supplement local authorities in providing coverage for large events such as Portuguese festas. More recently, the City Council approved an agreement under which a reserve officer for Livingston will be available on an on-call basis to transport Gustine prisoners when GPD has limited coverage on the street.

“Just to take a person to jail takes three or four hours,” Acting Lt. Samuel Joseph, who is overseeing the department until a new chief of police is hired, told the council.

That may leave the city in a position where it has to turn to neighboring Newman for assistance with coverage, Joseph noted.

“This will make a big difference,” Joseph said.

“This is on an as-needed basis. We don’t anticipate using him a lot,” Dunford told Mattos Newspapers. “If we run into a bind where the person is going to be transported and it will be for a long period of time we can use (the Livingston reserve) instead of allocating our personnel to do that.”

The department continues to run short-staffed. With two positions frozen, it has a complement of eight sworn officers at full strength. Recently, Dunford said, the department was down two, a patrol officer and the chief position.

Joseph said in early November that an officer candidate was in background.

The department, Dunford said, is also working to build its reserve ranks - which provides an in-house hiring pool when vacancies arise and provides additional local resources which reduce the need to bring in outside agencies.

Against that backdrop, Dunford said, GPD has nonetheless been able to take a more active approach on issues ranging from traffic enforcement to probation checks.

“Lt. Joseph has switched the schedule around so at peak times we are able to have three officers on duty,” he explained. “We are working with the officers to try to make it the most efficient schedule and the best for the city without running the officers into the ground.”

Special details are being assigned to issues such as parking problems, illegal u-turns and crosswalk compliance, added Dunford, a former GPD chief.

“We have been getting complaints about parking, and complaints about u-turns forever,” he commented. “With the new schedules, we can bring them in and do selective enforcement on specific issues.”

Dunford said local police have also been partnering with outside agencies to conduct parole and probation sweeps.

“They are putting people in jail who need to be in jail,” he stated.

Dunford said officers have had a voice in the process of transforming the department.

“We reached out to the officers and asked how we can make this work,” he told Mattos Newspapers. “They have given us suggestions, and we have listened. We are working very cooperatively to forward the goals of the city and the police department.”

While small in number, Joseph told the City Council, the officers are dedicated.

“We have very good officers here,” he said. “The ones you have now, for as small as we are, they put a lot of heart and soul into this.”