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Nevada City’s police see numerous changes

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

While a proposal for Grass Valley and Nevada City’s respective police forces to help one another serve their jurisdictions could lead to major changes for both departments, Nevada City’s law enforcement has already vastly changed in the last few years.

Some changes are more visible than others.

“When I became the interim police chief in March 2012, the Nevada City Police Department lacked vision, mission or direction,” said Chief Jim Wickham, in a report to the City Council for its upcoming meeting Wednesday, noting a 2010 Nevada County Civil Grand Jury report that focused on evidence room deficiencies, and a 2011 report that recommended the city thoroughly examine outsourcing the city’s law enforcement.



Since Wickham’s hiring, he has pushed through a no-smoking ordinance prompted by rampant marijuana smoking; created a downtown foot patrol position to interact with businesses and locals; increased parking enforcement; passed a homeless-curbing no-camping ordinance; and restructured the police department and pushed its staff through more than 700 hours of education.

In an interview with The Union, Wickham highlighted his role in coaxing neighboring law enforcement agencies into consolidating into a county-wide dispatch service. The move came as Nevada City was facing a $50,000 increase in its tab for outsourcing its dispatch with the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.




Once Truckee and Grass Valley joined Nevada City at the sheriff’s dispatch center, Nevada City realized more than $25,000 in savings from its then nearly $130,000 dispatch cost.

In the last few months, NCPD officers have been adorned in not only matching uniforms but clad in an array of new equipment, such as bulletproof vests.

Those officers also have also ditched Ford’s discontinued Crown Victoria for the company’s new Explorer designed for law enforcement.

Of the department’s more than $100,000 in expenditures for the three new vehicles, a standing patrol scooter, vests, assault rifles and computers, most of the funding came from grants that had restrictions on allocations, asset forfeiture funds and revenues from Proposition 172, a public safety-funding state sales tax.

Of a $171,331 mid-2012 budget adjustment, $147,000 came from those restricted-allocation funding sources, Wickham noted.

“The past year, there hasn’t been an increase in revenue,” Wickham said.

“We are just fortunate to identify all these funding sources and get council approval for them.”

The mid-year shift only required a 2 percent increase from the city’s general fund, according to Finance Director Catrina Olson’s March adjustment report.

And even with Nevada City’s 3/8-cent voter-approved sales tax increase, its police department’s $1.48 million operating budget for fiscal year 2013-14 represents a nearly $80,000 decline from the 2012-13 midyear adjustment, including Wickham’s $6,600 raise.

Part of Wickham’s strategy also relies on increased reliance on volunteers, reserve officers and interns and cooperation with neighboring law enforcement agencies.

But Wickham’s days are numbered in Nevada City. With the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the statewide public pension program, fighting Nevada City’s use of a part-time status for a police chief, the city has been forced to look for a permanent police chief a full year sooner than its administrators had planned.

Wickham, a retired annuitant who doesn’t collect any further pension from Nevada City because of his part-time status, has no intention of jeopardizing his pension from Marin County by applying for the full-time position.

Instead, he views himself as more of an administrative consultant to Nevada City for police services, until they find a new chief sometime later this year.

“I feel we have a lot of support in the community now,” Wickham said. “People tell me they have seen a change in the department for the better.”

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email crosacker@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.


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