The city of Parlier is battling a budget crisis and the police department may have to pay some of the price. The city is hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and officials say they have no other choice but to reduce the police force. This comes at time when some citizens say more officers are needed on the streets, not less.
Financial woes have trickled into the city of Parlier. An $800,000 hole in the general fund means tough cuts are on the way, and it's those who put their lives on the line for our safety, that are now in danger.
Parlier Police Chief David Cerda says, "It's inevitable. Cuts have to be made."
Last week, all 15 officers on the force were warned about possible lay offs. City manager Lou Martinez says only a few positions are on the chopping block.
"We're looking at two, three or four people to reduce that budget amount in the general fund, but not to close the department," says Martinez.
Even minor cuts could have a big impact in the small city. For years, Parlier has battled major gang and drug problems.
Elizabeth Ybarra has lived in Parlier for 30 years. She says crime has been getting worse.
"I think we need all the officers we can get, qualified officers," says Ybarra.
The city council will take up the issue during Wednesday night's meeting. Ybarra plans to make a plea.
"If I get a chance to voice my opinion, I'm going to tell them it's ridiculous. Even little towns need protection."
Cerda says protection is the number one priority, and citizens shouldn't worry. Reserve and volunteer officers will be brought in to fill the gap.
"Anytime you lose personnel and patrol it's not a good thing, but you improvise and you make changes," says Chief Cerda.
Martinez says there's no way around the cuts, but says as soon as the city gets back on track, officers will be hired back. Until then, Ybarra fears her safety is in jeopardy.
"It's leaving us vulnerable."