OCEANSIDE — The Oceanside Police Department will convert three vacant officer positions to administrative positions, including an assistant police chief role.
Police Chief Fred Armijo requested the City Council’s approval of the new positions, including lieutenant and sergeant posts, at a Dec. 21 meeting. The council expressed some misgivings but unanimously approved Armijo’s request.
In making the request, the chief said that the police department has had the current executive team model of one chief and three captains for over 30 years but that the department has grown.
“In order to maintain the level of community connectedness necessary as chief of police while also interfacing with staff to push forward needed change, an executive level assistance is necessary and quite frankly long overdue,” Armijo said.
OPD’s Support Operations division has administrative roles in addition to operations, including training, financial services, media and public relations, background investigations and hiring, that the new administrative positions will oversee.
Armijo also said the move would enable the department to enhance and maintain transparency and accountability while ensuring it complies with California laws that create additional administrative responsibilities, such as rules regulating law enforcement’s use of military-grade equipment.
The cost of the three new positions is $805,313.
Mayor Esther Sanchez said she had difficulty supporting the move over concerns that it would take police officers off the street. In addition, she noted past complaints about the city’s response times on calls regarding police officers.
Still, the mayor voted in favor of the switch but emphasized that she would push to add more police officers to the department.
“Administrators won’t help us in the neighborhoods,” she said.
Councilmember Eric Joyce also struggled with the change but supported the move to improve transparency and accountability among police. He also cited the support of the Police and Fire Commission and the police union.
Councilmember Ryan Keim, a former city police officer, strongly supported the police chief’s request. He suggested increasing the police budget to include more officers as well.
Armijo addressed concerns about the change taking police officers off the streets.
“I’m aware of concerns under this plan that our department may be considered too top-heavy, and it will be taking officers off the street, but this isn’t the case,” the chief said.
He pointed out that three additional police officers will be ready to leave training by March, and another three will be prepared by May.
Armijo noted that Oceanside currently has 14.4 police officers for every management position, comparing that with Carlsbad’s 8.6-1 officer-to-management ratio and Escondido’s 11.5-1 ratio. With the three new administrative roles, Oceanside would drop slightly to a 12.3-1 ratio.