In August of 2016, the Bear Valley CSD requested a cost analysis from the Kern County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) for providing contracted police service to the community of Bear Valley Springs. That quote for service was $207,241 above the 2016 Bear Valley Police Department (BVPD) budget. In the cover letter, the KCSO indicated that “there would be challenges associated with filling deputy sheriff positions.”
The cost analysis suggests that the KCSO would be working out of the Golden Hills KCSO Substation rather than the BVPD building. There was no guarantee that an officer would always be in the valley.
The BVPD is funded through a Police Special Tax* and General Funds. In 1994 the Public Safety Assessment was $165 per parcel per year. During the 1995/96 Fiscal Year, that assessment was lowered to $80 per parcel per year without an annual inflationary adjustment. The tax remains $80 today, over two decades later, with the General Fund filling the gap between the $289,600 police tax revenues and the $1 million + BVPD budget.
Before 2016, the BVPD had a fully staffed Dispatch center, one Chief, one Sergeant, one Sr Officer, five full-time officers, and one Police Technician. Measure G – an increase to the Police Special Tax – was proposed as part of the June 2016 Primary election to improve the sustainability of the BVPD. The measure failed to reach the 2/3 supermajority required to pass. As a result, the dispatch center, Police Support Technician, and two full-time Police Officer positions were eliminated. The Board also directed staff to obtain the above cost analysis for outsourcing police coverage to the KCSO. As a result, they determined that outsourcing was not cost-effective.
The BVPD currently provides 24/7 coverage, but officers do not respond to non-emergency calls overnight due to several vacant positions. Reliance upon KCSO would likely not resolve these staffing difficulties. The KCSO has struggled for years with dangerously low recruiting and retention rates.
In 2019 Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood called the situation a “crisis.”
In December 2020, the Kern Law Enforcement Association pointed to the lack of staffing as a cause for problems within the organization that resulted in a settlement with the California Department of Justice and an extensive list of required reforms.
The BVPD is currently recruiting a Chief of Police, a Police Sergeant, and one full-time officer. When all vacant positions are filled, the BVPD will once again provide full 24/7 coverage with officers on duty around the clock. Despite the lack of staffing, the BVPD maintains an average response time of 3:48** minutes in addition to all other services provided. Two of our officers are BVS residents and all are proud to serve this beautiful community.
* prior to 1997 the Police Special Tax was known as a Public Safety Assessment; this money may only be used for Police and Dispatch salaries and benefits.
** As of April 2021. The average response time for each month and a year-to-date list is included in the Public Safety Staff Report in the Board Package each month.