Clovis Police Chief hosts Facebook Live Q&A

Clovis Police Chief Matt Basgall (City of Clovis)

Clovis Police Chief Matt Basgall hosted his third annual Facebook Live Q&A Session last night in his office.

From the comfort of their home, office, or Wi-Fi hotspot, Clovis residents joined the 30-minute conversation on the Clovis Police Department’s Facebook page.

“Hopefully we can answer your questions tonight and give you a little information on what is going on at the Clovis Police Department and in the City of Clovis,” Basgall said.

Joined by Police Service Officer Ty Wood, Basgall answered questions and talked about current issues to keep residents informed.

Here are a few topics the Chief of Police addressed during the Facebook Live session:

The use-of-force proposed legislation

Wood: Chief, if you don’t mind, let’s start out talking about the use-of-force proposed legislation for the State of California and why it’s a concern for law enforcement.

Basgall: The [biggest concern] is that currently there has been several laws, several court decisions regarding what is reasonable force and was isn’t. From 1989, the Graham v. Connor decision has basically dictated what reasonable force is, in law enforcement, and we train on that all the time. Everything is basically under scrutiny when it comes to the use of force, as it should be. The legislation that is being proposed is talking about necessary actions. Really, when you talk about necessary actions, what they are proposing is not really something that a police officer can take the time to do on every situation. We are not saying that there shouldn’t be a conversation, that there shouldn’t be some sort of working points to work together. But, the way this basic legislation was proposed, it’s people in Sacramento saying this is what we want police officers to do now without really asking them what they do, do.

Wood: What are we asking our residents to do if they support us and don’t want this bill to be in the books?

Basgall: We posted it on Facebook prior, and the thing we ask [residents] to do is contact [Assemblymember] Kevin McCarty (916-319-2007) and [Assemblymember] Shirley Weber (916-319-2079) to address those concerns.

Training that officers receive for mental health crises

Wood: Let’s start out with our first question from a Clovis resident who wants to know if officers are trained for mental health crises above what POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) requires?

Basgall: When it comes to mental health and mental illness, there is advanced Critical Incident Training (CIT) that we have been sending our FTOs (Field Training Officers) to. It’s above and beyond. It’s not just an eight-hour block or 16-hour block, its around 80 hours. It’s recognizing and understanding more about mental health. It’s definitely a concern within our community, it’s definitely a concern that all of our law enforcement agencies are dealing with now. So, we do try to get more advanced training. What happens is once the FOTs are trained, they bring that back to the rest of the department and also implement some of that training. But everybody does go through a form of CIT training, this just happens to be an advanced one.”

Volume of calls received in 2017

Wood: Since you spoke to the Clovis City Council regarding our 2017 crime stats, can you go through the volume of calls that we handled last year?

Basgall: We handled approximately 85,000 calls for service in 2017 and in 2016 we handled about 88,000 calls. We did see a little bit of an increase in types of calls for service. A lot of that had to do with officer-initiated traffic [stops] being down this last year, meaning that officers were busier which gave them less time to be more proactive as far as dealing with their own type of calls that they go out and initiate. The public-initiated calls were over 49,000, those are the calls that go into dispatch and officers respond to. The city is growing, we have 112,000 to 114,000 people now within our community. It continues to grow. We will see more growth in our city. So as the city grows, so does the volume of traffic for police officers.

Common calls from 2017

Wood: Let’s talk about the most common calls from 2017, those where either an officer initiated or the public called in. What did you see officers responding to the most?

Basgall: They responded to a variety of different calls, we still had vehicle burglaries and residential burglaries. At one point during this last year, we did have a series of residential burglaries that were significant in the number that they were occurring. Those seem to have stopped – knock on wood – so hopefully it continues. We have made some arrests in those types of circumstances. The big thing that we’re seeing an increase in is going to be the forgeries, the counterfeiting, the identity theft type of cases. Those seem to be off the charts lately and those tend to go hand-in-hand with the narcotic type of violations. The big thing when it comes to identity theft is that when somebody becomes a criminal who does this type of activity, it doesn’t just affect one person. They typically will affect 20, 30, 40 people because they are stealing mail at bundles at a time, so they end up having several victims associated with this type of event.

Adding officers as the city grows

Wood: Inga wants to know what are we doing to ensure that we have a safe amount of officers while the population grows?

Basgall: “It’s a huge challenge right now, and it has been a challenge for the last several years. There is a lot of factors that go into that. As the city grows, obviously we would want to add more officers and we are doing our best to try and do that. But, there is a lot of cost factors that are associated with it. In today’s day and time, you have rising costs in workers’ compensation, health care, retirement systems, risk management, cost of vehicles. It’s going to be much more difficult to hire more officers because of all these factors that are in play right now. We’ve been pretty stagnant as far as adding officers, not to the fault of anyone other than it really just comes down to money and the General Fund is what funds the police department. So, the more resources that are available in the General Fund, the more officers we’re able to hire. With that said, we have done a lot of things over the past years to try and offset some of those things. That’s through hiring CSOs (Community Service Officers), cadets, our volunteers on patrol. We have 99 working volunteers here at the police department between our Miss Winkles Pet Adoption [Center] and our citizens on patrol. There is a lot of things that go into trying to keep up with population growth. We do a lot of different things to do that, but there are going to be challenges moving forward.”

School safety

Wood: Someone had a question regarding school safety, with all of the mass shootings in schools. Is there anything that Clovis Police Department is specifically doing to keep our kids safe?

Basgall: “We work very closely with Clovis Unified School District. The things that we have been doing, we’ve actually been doing for several years. That’s recognizing what an active shooter situation could be, working with administrators on what could be a troubled youth, who are people we should contact to speak to regarding potential problems. If we receive anything that can be considered to be a threat, we work it to the fullest. We’ve had some recent issues that turned out to be bogus type of threats, but we took them very seriously. At 3 a.m., we are out and making arrests. All I can say is that it is very much a significant topic for us. We continue to work with the school district and continue to train officers at every opportunity we get to combat these situations.”

Clovis Rodeo Involvement

Basgall: Rodeo starts well before the Rodeo gets here. The number of officers that are involved in that is a small army in some respects. The planning and stuff that goes into it, working with the [Clovis] Rodeo Association happens many months in advance. This year, our rodeo will basically start on Thursday night [April 26]. You’ll see a number of officers out there, it’s pretty much all hands on deck that weekend.