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Chico City Council lift hiring freeze on police department, will enforce encampment ban

In a six to one vote, the Chico City Council motioned to lift the hiring freeze on the Chico Police Department - allowing for the hiring of police officers, dispatchers, animal control, park rangers, and more.

Posted: Dec 16, 2020 2:55 AM
Updated: Dec 16, 2020 8:49 AM

CHICO, Calif. - The Chico City Council passed a motion to allow the local police department to hire more staff.

The previous City Council motioned to freeze all hiring at the beginning of the pandemic in hopes of saving the city money, and in anticipation of losing a lot more money over the summer.

The City Council passed a motion that lifts that hiring freeze and allows for more than 11 positions to be filled.

"In order to meet the needs of the community and provide that public safety service, we need those positions filled," said Chico Police Chief, Matt Madden. "I'm excited, it'll get us back on the hiring and recruiting front. In several areas of the department, not just the police officers but our communication center, dispatchers."

Lifting the hiring freeze also adds positions to other departments like animal control and park rangers. 

Vice Mayor Reynolds brought forth the agenda item. 

It passed six to one with Councilmember Alex Brown being the one 'Nay' due to lack of further conversation. 

Last week, an emergency ordinance passed banning encampments from city parks.

Action News asked Chief Madden if the police department would enforce it.

"We will enforce it. It is law but we'll do this strategically, as far as it goes to some of the camping issues, we're going to be compassionate, right now we're using this as an educational piece," explained Chief Madden. "People have to understand we're a busy police department, and so we're constantly prioritizing calls for service and where we're spending our time."

Even with the increase in staff, the city will still prioritize emergency calls.

"That doesn't necessarily mean that just cause you're adding police officers that you're gonna focus just on this ordinance, we have a lot of other things going on in this city," he said.

The emergency ordinance went into effect last Wednesday. Park rangers and city staff can also enforce the encampment ban, along with other rules in the ordinance like unauthorized fires and consumption of alcohol.

Also at the meeting, the City Council passed a motion to allow the city attorney to look further into the possibility of Chico banning needle distribution programs.

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We've had a mostly sunny valley with a few more clouds over the mountains today, but it's been another beautiful day with warmer highs than yesterday. Much warmer weather is headed our way this weekend... enjoy, but stay cool!
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