Olvera wants to put more officers on the streets

Christopher Maher, Jim Wells County Correspondent

Following several months of turmoil in the San Diego Police Department, recently hired chief of police Joe Olvera is taking steps to increase stability inside the department and increase communication with those outside the department.

The San Diego Police Department underwent a drastic change in personnel in 2006, with the resignation of several officers and the former chief of police, Rogelio Mendez.

Although the department saw a great deal of turnover in personnel in the past year, Olvera said he recently posted sergeants over the patrol and traffic division and the investigative division, easing some of the workload. The department has also hired new officers, and is currently only two officers short of a full staff.

"Once I have full staff, that's going to be more officers out on the street," Olvera said. "I plan to bring in people here and keep them here, and make the work environment good and safe."

Olvera, who was hired as the chief of police in November, recently wrote out a mission statement for his department and the community, and outlined areas of emphasis for the coming years.

"This is just to let the citizens know what I intend to do here," Olvera said. "I just want to make the public aware that we're here to help them out, and at the same time enforce the laws. The ex-chief did a good job, but we just want to pick up where he left off."

Many of the issues addressed in the statement related to increasing community involvement and interaction with the department, such as promoting an "open door" policy for his office, increasing presentations at local schools and promoting the Neighborhood Watch program.

"The Neighborhood Watch is a very important program," Olvera said. "And we want to educate the children while they are in school and try to keep them out of trouble."

Another issue Olvera said he was working to address was the education of victims of crimes, especially victims of domestic abuse. Olvera said domestic disturbance calls were frequent in the city, and often required officers to return to homes multiple times. Olvera said he hoped to work to educate victims of crimes regarding their rights, programs available for assistance and in crime prevention.

"There's help out there for them, and they don't need to be afraid, help is there," Olvera said. "Especially in family violence, victims aren't there by themselves, we're here to take care of them."

Olvera said although the department still has a long way to go, he is confident the bonds inside the department and with the community will get stronger in the coming months.

"Everybody's working in unity, and it's going to get better," Olvera said. "People just need to get more involved."