Today is the first day in 25 years that San Mateo County Sheriff's deputies aren't assisting in the policing of East Alto. After the city incorporated in 1983, the sheriff continued to provide police services.
As the city established its own police department, the role of the sheriff's deputies was reduced.
San Mateo County informed the city in May 2005 that it would end the contract for police services, although it was extended as the city prepared for the transition.
As part of the transition, the city established its own investigations unit of detectives more than a year ago. The sheriff's deputies have been providing supplemental patrol assistance since then.
"I knew the city needed its own crime investigations," Police Chief Ron Davis said, which is why he established his own unit before the end of the contract.
The end of the contract will free up money to hire additional officers. Four open positions had been frozen to pay for the contract, Davis said.
The city is currently budgeted for 39 sworn officers and has seven vacancies. Davis said he hoped to fill those positions by the end of the year.
The department has two recruits in training now, Davis said, while he just made a job offer to a third potential officer. In addition, five candidates have completed oral interviews and 10 more applied at a recent job fair that Davis held.
After the hiring process, the recruits attend police academy (if they haven't done that already) for six months and then spend four months in the field with a training officer.
The city has seen homicides decrease since the 15 in 2005 to six in 2006 and seven last year. The 2006-07 numbers included a deadly period in December 2006 and January 2007 that included several homicides and a spate of non-lethal shootings, prompting new community efforts to reduce violence. Davis has vowed to continue to reduce the number of homicides.