The UC Santa Barbara Police Department is currently understaffed and looking to hire eight sworn-in peace officers, several dispatchers, a records assistant, a clery assistant and a business services manager, according to UCSB Police Department Sergeant Dan Wilson.
Wilson attributed the dwindling staffing numbers to the current national outlook on policing and a smaller hiring pool.
“The things that have been handed down the last few years, locally and nationally … have created people wanting to retire, leave, to go to a different agency, whether locally or even out of state,” he said.
In Isla Vista and across the country, communities have called for the reduction or abolishment of police departments, citing disproportionate police violence against Black people. Within the University of California system, administrators and students have discussed reducing the number of police officers on UC campuses.
At UC Santa Barbara, close to 1,000 students gathered in May 2020 to protest police brutality during the Black Lives Matter movement, and protests to remove police from campus continued in October 2020. The group Cops Off Campus remains active in I.V., holding a variety of pro-abolitionist events.
“A lot of officers don’t feel supported by their community, whether their local community as well as their state and nationally, painted in a broad scope. And there’s a lot of changes that have occurred. So it’s kind of driving people out of this profession,” Wilson said.
According to a 2020 survey by the National Police Foundation, 86% of police departments reported a staffing shortage, something Wilson reiterated.
“Most police agencies … state, sheriff, local, city police departments are struggling to hire qualified people for the job. The applicant pool is much less than in years that I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It’s much more difficult to get people that are qualified to want to come into this profession.”
The department’s understaffing means that current officers are “juggling a lot of different hats,” according to Wilson.
“With less resources, we’ve had to pull our community outreach team from their full-time jobs doing outreach to help supplement patrol because of the dwindling staffing levels,” he said.
A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the Jan. 27, 2022, print edition of the Daily Nexus.