Police Chief revises services in face of major cuts


Mammoth Lakes Police Chief Dan Watson 

Next month, Mammoth Police Chief Dan Watson will likely go to the Town Council to explain service cutbacks and revised shift schedules as a result of expected cuts in police officer positions. With no final determination yet, the Chief does expect the elimination of some police services – footbeats in the Village, investigations of property damage in traffic wrecks, delayed response times and periods when no police will be on duty.

As Mammoth Police Officers, discouraged by the plan to severely reduce their numbers, look for other jobs, things will change for law enforcement in Mammoth Lakes – even before the Town Council cuts take effect next July. Mammoth Police Chief Dan Watson said three officers are retiring and two are leaving for other departments by December 31. One may remain on contract for six months.

The Chief said, “In addition to these, at least five other officers are processing for jobs with other law enforcement agencies.” Chief Watson, diplomatic but candid in his public comments about the demise of nearly half his department, said the Town Council will make “their difficult, final decisions on the reorganization plan and how to pay the $2 million per year settlement at the next meeting on December 5.”  The Chief believes the Council will stick with the plan to cut seven sworn positions, leaving the Mammoth Lakes Police Department with ten officers.

Chief Watson said he will go to the Town Council, probably in December, with a report that will explain the service cutbacks and revised shift schedule that he will implement sometime before July 1. The Chief is clear to say that there have been no final determinations in what service reductions will be implemented, but he is also clear that police will no longer do some of the things they have historically – footbeats in the Village, investigations of property damage, delayed response to some types of calls or no response for some minor incidents. He says there will likely be periods when “there will be no one on duty and officers will be on call for major events.”

Chief Watson said he will meet with the Bishop Police Chief and Sheriffs of Mono and Inyo Counties to “work out arrangements to hire their personnel on an overtime basis for dates when we need more officers than we have available.” The Chief said none of this has been finalized. Considering government finances, it is unknown if the other departments have the capacity to grant the Chief’s request.

Chief Watson said, “Whatever the outcome, we will make every effort to see that service reductions are minimized for the least impact on residents and visitors. These changes,” he said, “will be phased in as personnel depart and I do not have a timeline at this time.”

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64 Responses to Police Chief revises services in face of major cuts

  1. ferdinand lopez December 2, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    come on people,the town council represents the business owners of mammoth lakes,they have only one thing on their minds,mo money,they dont give a crap about the average citizen living and working in town,its no different then our current government,we have no control or say and the leaders have completely lost focus.let them all work for ten bucks an hour,like the locals and watch their concerns change

  2. Throw the bums out December 2, 2012 at 7:25 am #

    It’s time to start a recall petition.

  3. MJA December 1, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    Cut the payment plan to Ballas and his friends and leave the community services alone.
    Rights right.


  4. Rob November 30, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

    Chief Watson is undoubtably a highly qualified, highly experienced, highly effective law enforcement executive. But the fact remains the same, TOML cannot afford to pay urban So Cal or Nor Cal rates, especially $130k in bennies. Lets be real people.

    • Big AL December 1, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

      They could afford it Rob, if they got some better town managers in there .. maybe the people should vote the present board out and start over with much lower cost members, who can make some more sound decisions … and heed what the town citizens say.

  5. ferdinand lopez November 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    i just saw in the news that national birthrate is down because illegal immegrants are not getting as much state funds as before,what kind of future is this country in for?

  6. concerned November 30, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    As the old saying goes” you reap what you sow”. When Mammoth citizens and Town Council have serious crimes and emergencies, the Police force won’t be sufficient enough to solve all the problems. A year from now, they will likely be ammending the budget to include the hire of several new sworn officers…

  7. Sheriff Scholl November 30, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    Unfortunately, there are too many un-informed people that respond to these blogs so I have decided to try and educate those that care to know the facts. I normally will not respond to blogs as most people don’t have the guts to identify themselves and can have their ideas and thoughts printed with no accountability. I started as a Reserve Deputy Sheriff in December of 1973, (yes 1973) and full time as a Deputy Sheriff assigned to the Mammoth Substation in January of 1975 so I do have some history and knowledge of the past. In 1984 prior to the incorporation of the Town of Mammoth Lakes, the Sheriff’s Office patrolled the southern part of Mono County from Crestview south with 12 patrol deputies not including, 1 lieutenant, 3 sergeants, 2 investigators and a civil officer. The south county communities had about 25% of the residents they have now so there was not a significant amount of patrol activity in those areas so most of a deputy’s time was spent in Mammoth Lakes. Until the incorporation of Mammoth, the California Highway Patrol also patrolled the Mammoth Lakes area with the responsibility of traffic accident investigation and traffic enforcement. I believe there were 8 CHP officers also working the Mammoth Lakes/South County area. A significant and tragic incident was addressed a month or so ago on these blogs and as a reminder there were 3 patrol deputies working in Mammoth at that time along with one CHP officer. Yes, 4 on duty on an evening shift in Mammoth in 1975.

    In 1985 once the Town incorporated the Sheriff’s Office provided contract law enforcement services to the Town. At that time we had a Assistant Sheriff, (Bruce MacAfee), 1 Lt., 2 Sgts assigned full time to Mammoth, 2 Sgts assigned 1/2 time, 1 full time investigator, 1 part-time investigator, and 12 patrol deputies to police the Town of Mammoth Lakes on a 24/7 basis. If a deputy was on vacation or sick time the County could pull a deputy from another location in the County and fulfill the contract requirement.

    Unfortunately due to power, ego and other political agendas the Town of Mammoth Lakes decided to form their own Police Department and started the Department in June of 1986. During the formation of the Police Department it was decided to have a Chief, (Bruce MacAfee), 1 Lt., 3 Sgts, and 10 police officers. The department was not fully staffed to the level of 15 total sworn personnel until Sept of 1986. I was one of the original 15 selected to work for the newly formed Mammoth Lakes Police Department.

    It is incomprehensible to believe that the MLPD will be able to effectively police the Town of Mammoth Lakes with what is projected by the Town Council. I truly believe the public safety and officer safety will be at a significantly higher risk when staffing drops to less than 10 sworn staff.

    For those that think there were no police services or significantly less officers on the street in Mammoth Lakes prior to incorporation, I felt the need to inform the public on the facts.

    Currently there are thousands of law enforcement job openings in the State of CA in lower costs of living areas, with higher pay and benefits than what the Eastern Sierra Law Enforcement agencies can afford. I believe it will be very difficult to attract qualified individuals to backfill the exodus of officers from the Mammoth Lakes Police Department and for Mammoth to count on additional help from the Sheriff’s Offices in Inyo and Mono Counties along with Bishop PD and CHP as we do not have additional man power to provide assistance to Mammoth Lakes.

    If any member of the public wishes to discuss the facts as I have addressed here, please do not hesitate to contact me.

    Respectfully Sheriff Rick Scholl

    • Bye-bye qualified people November 30, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

      As Sheriff Scholl notes, the high cost of living in Mammoth prohibits a lot of qualified individuals to live here.
      And now we have elected officials (Supervisor Johnston, councilmen Lehman and Raimondo) who want nothing more than to further reduce salaries and expenses to those who are qualified.

    • Big Rick OBrien November 30, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

      With all due respect Sheriff, you’re only gonna be around for less than 3 more weeks.
      Then again, maybe you should delay your retirement , stick around & see how this thing plays out.

    • Big AL December 1, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

      The town is losing some good people with experience, it will be tough to replace them when this all settles out, when as another poster says .. they decide to ramp up staffing.

      • Be the first on your block December 2, 2012 at 7:26 am #

        Why not be the one to initiate a recall petition, Big Al?

        • Let the recall commence December 2, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

          Bacon and Raimondo didn’t even have to campaign to get elected to their power-positions. Until the citizens of Mammoth and Mono County can step up to the plate and put things in order, or move to recall the miscreants doling out huge salaries for their pals – the corruption in this community will continue unabated.

        • Big AL December 3, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

          I would if it was my town. I don’t have a problem with it, is it your town?

    • SPAZ December 1, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

      In 1986 we had about 58 liquor licenses in Mono County.
      Today we have about 85.

      If most your problems come from from the drinking public, cut the number of licenses or enact a “sin” tax.

      Make the ones who cause the problems pay for them. If you put a dollar tax on every mixed drink and bottle of beer you will have enough money to pay for all the cops and the left over can pay off the airport debacle.

      • Big AL December 3, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

        What has the tax on tobacco products done to bring down the crime rate and end smoking addictions.

    • elsinoreracer December 3, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

      Thanks for this response. I remember those days fondly.

  8. Sour grapes November 30, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    As the economy tightens (and you can be sure it will) those who were paying attention, saw bad times coming, got a good education, live and spend intelligently within their means, will get hurt the least.

    The others will find their way onto bitching sessions like these whining about everything and blaming others for the situation they are in today.

    Buddha put it this way:

    Life is suffering – And we are the creators of our own suffering.

  9. MJA November 29, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

    Two million a year for 25 years for absolutely nothing.
    Leave the police alone and don’t give Ballas a dime.

    The court got it wrong and its time for Mammoth to get it right!


    • Bemused December 1, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

      MJA, we can only assume at this point that you are clinically delusional. Please get some help…and spare us all your broken-record nonsensical postings in the meantime.

      • Benett Kessler December 1, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

        Yes. The settlement is signed. The bankruptcy is over. Payments ahead. End of story.

  10. concerned November 29, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    Wilbrecht and Marianna are working together, but are not listening to any of the towns concerns. Their only concern is lining their own pockets at the expense of the safety of the towns people. We can’t afford an adequate police force but can afford to overpay for “cush” unnecessary positions invented and implemented overnight. This was not voted on, but decided by those who sit in ivory towers. Mammoth is becoming a laughing stock and a haven for criminals.

  11. SPAZ November 29, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    To know the FUTURE LOOK to the past…

    What did people do 25 years ago when no police dept existed in Mammoth?
    That’s what they will do now.

    Chief, they dropped your budget, deal with it and drop your salaries. Not your services.
    Just like all the rest of us. Cut back on a few cigars and Hawaiian shirts.

    • Benett Kessler November 29, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

      The Chief can’t “drop salaries”. They are negotiated between the Town and the Police Officers
      Association. The Chief himself will lose $50,000 a year through re-structuring of Town government. Services are provided by officers, so I’m not sure how you would propose maintaining services but not salaries.
      Benett Kessler

    • Get Real November 29, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

      The Mammoth of today is not what it was 25 years ago. Cops are in demand through out the state. You have to pay good money to hire and retain them.

      The council is going along with your suggestions so the cops are leaving to go where they are fairly compensated and appreciated. The Mammoth cops will have no problem getting jobs elsewhere. The Town will not be able to hire any good cops in the future for what they want to pay them. That is the reality. They may be able to hire the ones no one else will hire but even that is doubtful. There are state standards for hiring cops.

      The bottom line is that very few people can become cops. They simply cannot pass the physical standards, psycological standards and the very extensive background investigation, all of which are mandated and inspected by the state. It’s not like hiring restaurant help or lift operators.

      As far as the Chief goes, if you want quality you pay for it. His pay is not excessive for California. It is right in line for the area.

      We should know by spring, about May I figure, how this all worked out.

    • Big Rick OB November 29, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

      25 years ago, the town had 4 bars instead of 20+ (I’m guessing) and HALF the population.
      AND…there was no meth epidemic back then.

      • elsinoreracer December 3, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

        Were you even here 25 years ago? If anything there may have more bars then. They come and go. i.e. Cask and Cleaver, Tavern, Las Montanas, V.I. etc. etc. As soon a license comes available here someone bids on it. As for the meth epidemic…well I believe I still have the L.A. Times front page that states “Mammoth Lakes Cocaine Heaven” These things always come and go with the newest trends. The fact is we do need proficient law enforcement here. I personally will not be voting for anyone on the town council that had anything to do with removing law enforcement positions and I encourage others to do the same.

    • Chase November 29, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

      Spaz, you’re exactly right!!! Love you. Bennett, the chief can drop salaries once their contract is up and he has less money to work with. He can either drop salaries of existing cops, or hire new cops at a smaller salary once the contract is up. Also, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d be THRILLED to make $40 an hour in this economy in Mammoth, even if it means driving to Bridgeport. Cry me a river. That’s what, $80k a year?

      • Get Real November 29, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

        Chase, you should put yourself through a Police Academy at your own expense like many of the MLPD officers did. I bet you would quit by the first week. If by some miracle you did pass, I bet you would not pass the background or the psycological testing.

        Do all that and you can make $40.00 an hour plus. How about it? I didn’t think so.

  12. Greg November 29, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    Don’t worry, you have plenty of backup in the Town. Let’s see, Fish and Game Wardens, NPS Ranger, BLM Ranger, Forest Service Ranger, CHP, Sheriff. Miss any agency? As I recall from a report a few years back, the Eastern Sierra has the highest Police to Citizen ratio in all of California. If you need em, they will come.

    • Your Outta Your Mind like Joe Biden November 29, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

      Don’t be ignorant, Fish and Game Wardens, NPS Ranger, BLM Ranger, Forest Service Ranger’s will not back up Mammoth PD, The Sheriff’s department and CHP will not be patrolling Mammoth and will most likely not be available to backup Mammoth PD and if they are the response time will not be reasonable. I would love to see the Town Council need Law Enforcement help and be put at the bottom of MLPD’s Priority list due to the shortage of Officers. Also why have the citizens of Mammoth not begun to boycott business that these Council Members own. Stand up for Mammoth run them out of town.

      • toomuch December 1, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

        give me a break!! i can’t tell you how many times i’ve come up on a stop a seen cops from all the agencies!!!!!!!!

    • Get Real November 29, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

      None of those agencies are 24 hours. There will not be any after hour help. The Rangers are 8 to 5 and are not trained or experienced in what the Police Department responds to including bear calls.

  13. Nancy Backerman November 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    I suspect crime will increase – criminals will all too quickly figure out that there are limited police resources available and that there’s a diminished likelihood of consequences from getting caught. Nice way to encourage criminal activity during those times when there aren’t any officers on duty.

    Interesting that the majority of the people in Mammoth Lakes don’t want these police cuts and yet the town council is probably moving ahead with them anyways. Weren’t they elected to represent the people? Why aren’t they listening?

    Very sad for our community that it’s come to this.

    • Big AL November 30, 2012 at 12:55 am #

      Good point .. about them being elected to represent the people.

      • What representation? November 30, 2012 at 9:53 am #

        Elected officials don’t have to have anything on the ball. They don’t need a Masters of Public Administration degree, no previous governing experience, a resume, etc. They just need enough votes to begin their power-trip.

        And speaking of representation, Mono County Supervisor, Johnston, represents a section of Mammoth that is nearly 100% hispanic. While Johnston goes merrily on his way trying to eliminate public employees’ salaries, jobs, perks, etc. “for the good of those he represents” I don’t know if Johnston has even made an effort to talk to his constituents in English or Spanish to assist them with their needs.

  14. joe glotz November 29, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    No wonder health care is so expensive if an off duty cop gets paid $40.00 an hour as a security guard at that hot bed of violent crime Northern Inyo Hospital.

  15. ferdinand lopez November 29, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    these comments show that police are only appreciated when needed.you better hope you dont.i guess if your a drug dealing idiot,then this is a good thing

  16. mobiltec November 29, 2012 at 9:39 am #

    The dept and the city sure seem to have plenty of time and money to spend on making life easier for the illegal alien community (hispanic community). Even supplying interpretors so they can voice their opinons and needs at meetings. When they should be spending their time arresting these people and turnin them over to ICE…

    • Chase November 29, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

      I wish I could hit Like 10 times for your comment, Mobiltec. You’re spot on…

    • Mark November 30, 2012 at 7:41 am #

      TOML has gone out of its way catering to the illegal aliens in the community and has consequently earned all issues and burdens that come with catering to illegal activities.

      Spare us the race card BK.

  17. Ted Gardner November 29, 2012 at 7:10 am #

    Bishop Officers can make $40.00 per hour at Northern Inyo Hospital doing Security work. Who would want to drive to Mammoth and have to deal with a drunk 20 year old on the ice and snow, in a town where some people think Police Officers “make too much money”. Then there is the drive to Bridgeport in the winter if a jail booking is required. I think the Chief will have a hard time finding Officers from other agencies that want to work overtime.

    • Future Look November 29, 2012 at 11:05 am #

      Great points Ted. The Town Council has shot themselves in the head!

      The busiest time of the year will start next month. It will be very interesting to see what will happen after Christmas, especially New Years Eve.

      The other issue is the moral support that MLPD Officers are receiving from surrounding agencies. I doubt anyone will come up to bail the Town Council out after what they have done. The Council will be left to reap what they have sown.

      • Chase November 29, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

        I can’t wait until New Year’s passes with no incidents. Then what are you going to gripe about? I’ve lived here since 1992 and I don’t recall very many serious crimes that need 17 cops making $200k (roughly) a year to control. The only ones who “shot themselves in the head” are the old council members, Wood and Eastman, who could have ended this nightmare years ago!

        • Get Real November 29, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

          It takes 17 cops to field 2 to 3 officers 24/7/365

          I never said it will happen on New years. It could happen eny time after 3:00 A.M. when there are no cops on duty.

        • Get Real November 29, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

          It takes 17 officers to field 2 to 3 officers 24/7/365

          An emergency requiring the Police can happen anytime, not just New Years. With no cops on after 3:00 A. M. what do you think will happen? Cops and Firefighters are in the Emergency business. They must plan, train and staff for low frequency/ high intensity events.

          That type of forward thinking takes place everywhere except Mammoth Lakes.

    • upthecreek November 29, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

      Sure he will not have any problems finding help .. After all it is the Pensions and future benefits they are After.


    • Mark November 29, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

      I’d rather drive to Bridgeport in the snow then across Los Angeles on a sunny day.

      Funny you make it sound like a bad thing.

      and who’s paying whom $40 an hour at Northern Inyo Hospital?

      • Benett Kessler November 29, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

        You may have missed the point of Ted’s comment. I believe he was comparing
        police officers working in Bishop doing security at Northern Inyo Hospital on
        off hours for $40 an hour versus working in Mammoth Lakes.

        • Mark November 29, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

          I didn’t miss Ted’s point. My question was who is paying $40 an hour. Is it the hospital or is it a private security contractor. Either way $40 is very high for the industry. Perhaps Ted is mistaking or there’s some funny business to look into.

          Look at average pay for armed gaurds in California. The hospital is paying to much.

          • Get Real November 29, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

            It is the Hospital that is paying that wage. They only hire Professional Law Enforcement Officers, current and retired. They want professional security not $10.00 an hour rent-a-cops who went through a one week secutity guard school.

          • Big AL November 30, 2012 at 12:52 am #

            What is so high about $40 an hour? especially since it is only part time .. no benefits.

        • Mark November 30, 2012 at 7:48 am #

          Get Real
          Wow that’s a pretty derogatory opinion you have of someone who does what is required by the state to legally be an armed guard. It almost sounds like you think you’re better then them.

          I do not feel the same way. But if what you say is true, it does sound like MLPD has some competition for better employement right down the road.
          That’s darn good pay for a retired cop already on a good pension. < that's for upthecreek 😉

  18. Trouble November 29, 2012 at 5:34 am #

    Personally, I never like seeing police in my rearview mirror anyway.

  19. Rob November 29, 2012 at 1:02 am #

    Thank god that there in no more narcotic enforcement in Mammoth Lakes. Cheers to the town for once doing something right. I got so tired of guessing who was an informant these days. Time to expand operations back into the high school where the real cash is since the one or two cops on duty wont have time to conduct controlled buys!

    • Get Real November 29, 2012 at 10:58 am #

      Rob, If you are worried about informants, that must mean you are a drug dealer right?

    • concerned November 29, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

      dont be a smart a**

  20. Rob November 29, 2012 at 1:01 am #

    How the heck does a struggling resort town hire a $300,000 police chief?? This is mismanagement at its worst. I’m sure that Watson is a great guy and that he took a 16% pay cut, but his salary and benefits are obscene for Mammoth Lakes. We’re talking about cutting officer poistions while retaining a $300,000 chief to manage 10 officers?

    The Town needs to get its act together and start operating like a lean mountain town. MLPD should not be paying their officers one dime more than Inyo or Mono County Sheriff’s Deputies and they sure as heck don’t need a $300,000 chief. What the heck makes up the $130,000 in benefits on top of his $180,000 salary?

    • Benett Kessler November 29, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

      I asked Chief Watson to clarify his pay situation. Here is his reply:

      “My salary is $183,547 per year. I pay 9% of that into the PERS pension system as my employee contribution.

      The reason there is confusion for some over the amount I am paid is that there’s a difference between what I am paid and what I cost the Town with total benefits. When you add the value of my holiday pay, vacation accrual, health, vision and dental insurance, and the Town’s portion of the PERS contribution, my total cost including benefits is $304,842.

      But the correct answer to what my salary is, is $183,547.

      What, if any reduction in my salary has not been determined yet.

    • SkiJohn November 29, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

      Rob, thank you for being a logical person. You’re exactly right. I’m going to be a Mammoth police chief in my next life. He also has a full pension from LA, too. Smart guy…

  21. Future Look November 28, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

    It will be interesting to see how our councilmembers respond to the citizens of Mammoth when a 911 call comes in of a violent assault, domestic or otherwise, and there is no Police Officers on duty.

    This also effects the response of the Fire Department and Paramedics. They cannot respond to an injured crime victim, injured suspect, injured drunk, mentally ill person, etc., unless the scene is secured and made safe by the Police. I guess they will have to wait at the fire station until someone drives up from Bishop where most of the officers live.

    So much for the “Golden Hour” for emergency medical care.

  22. Big Rick OB November 28, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

    The remaining officers have a rough road ahead…with all the upcoming vacancies & cutbacks, I don’t see how these guys (and gals) will ever get a day off. Are they expected to work 7 days a week ? With all the added responsibilities and sacrifices they are taking on , I hope no one whines about a cop who takes his kid to school in his patrol car .


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