Chief of Police Jay Stone spoke to the Chronicles to release information about the upcoming changes in the policing departments of the city of Santa Ramona Valley.
"The decision has been made on behalf of the Sheriff and Police departments to join as one department, under the Santa Ramona Police Department. This call for unity will not only help to increase the morale and budget but also to increase morale and greater response rate across the Valley for the safety of our citizens and tourists alike. This change is to be completed on January 1st, 2021 at which time the Chief will move to operate from the northside building with the Captain Davonte Johnson to oversee and command the operations of the southside office. We hope this will bring greater stability to the valley for all."
The budget for the former North side County Sheriff department- long an issue of contention between the two separate departments- will now be spread more equitably for the previously underfunded and budgetary challenged South side Police Department in this move to unite under one police department.
But budgets and funds are not the only cause for change and as former Governor and current Police Chief Stone remarked, there will be a look at boosting numbers in the force and more visible police presence on the streets of the city.
The Chronicles also spoke to Captain Davonte Johnson, a self proclaimed proud resident of the South side community. Captain Johnson has worked in the department since it's conception and has seen a gradual rise in rank.
What is your own personal opinion on the drive behind this unification of the two departments?
"Personally I fully follow and support Chief Stone's plans to unify our departments. I do believe we were working together pretty well overall but I am encouraged by the budget the North side has been afforded to trickle down to the South side precinct as well. I understand the need to boost numbers and encourage people to apply if they believe they can serve this city to their best abilities."
How would you answer critics of this move to unify departments and the potential claim that you are a good 'optic' for a severely challenged precinct in a notoriously violent and criminal part of the city?
"I object to anybody potentially perceivin' the notion that I am just a positive optic for the city's police force in terms of being young, male and black. I worked hard and have been working hard for this department for awhile. I also want to state that the city overall has been victim to violent crime in all areas, South side has it's challenges but there has been a lot of blood spilled in the North side too. South side is a vibrant community and we are a big part of this city in more ways than just crime and statistics."
Will there be any significant changes or developments under your Captaincy?
"I will be lookin' at reaching out to local business owners on the South side following along the Chief's footsteps, but also with some ideas on mediation and protection, information channels, as well as some ideas for the department itself."
The city of Santa Ramona is not unused to changes- after the last earthquake struck in 2018, the city had to rebuild, controversially a lot of that remodeling occurring in the more affluent North side sector. With the new move to unify police departments, the time to affect a change in a troubled and impoverished region of the city which has been slow to improve even after the rebuilding of the city might be now.
Mayor Angelynna Russo and Deputy Mayor Rousseau have been committed in bringing forward economic and social initiatives for the South side as well as the North side and some new investment has been arriving into the South side in the form of new clubs and bar venues, also driven perhaps in part due to low rental fees and property prices.
With promise of change also appearing on the South side Pier and boardwalk it is a hope for most that the South side continue to see investment trickle in, a hope which may be helped along if the departments sworn to protect and serve it's citizens use their new change for the betterment and benefit of the city.