California Highway Patrol cracking down on retail theft ahead of holiday shopping season

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) — It is a scene many feel is becoming more common: targeted and elaborate retail theft impacting retailers large and small.

Often caught on camera, several thieves burst in and walk out with thousands of dollars in goods.

“During this holiday season, merchants and consumers can expect to see an increased presence of high-visibility patrols and law enforcement,” California Highway Patrol Commissioner Sean Duryee said.

The commissioner said his agency has expanded its effort to combat retail theft across Central California.

CHP says it has already recovered about a million dollars in goods in the Fresno area and Sacramento.

But as the commissioner says patrols will continue, some worry that law enforcement’s hands are tied due to a state law.

“Proposition 47 created this huge loophole that says if you are caught with $950 or less of stolen goods, you’re going to get a misdemeanor, not a felony,” Republican State Assemblyman Jim Patterson said. “But the act they are doing is still a felony.”

Patterson described what he says are the deliberate lengths criminals go to when they target retailers.

He says the thieves “game the system” by each stealing less than $950 worth of products to avoid felony charges if caught.

Those crimes quickly add up, and Fresno Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Scott Miller says it is taking a toll on local retailers.

“If you’re a ten-person business, you don’t have a loss prevention professional working for you, and you just don’t have the ability to devote those resources to it,” Miller said.

Click here to read the full article at ABC 30

CHP officers get biggest raise in 20 years as hiring challenges drive up California police pay

California’s state police for the second year in a row will enjoy a salary bump that far exceeds the raises Gov. Gavin Newsom has offered to other public employees thanks to a state law that grants them automatic pay increases.

California Highway Patrol officers are getting a 7.9% wage increase, marking their biggest raise in 20 years. Last year, they received a 6.2% general salary increase. Both are historically high raises for the officers.

Raises for CHP officers by state law are based on the average compensation at five other law enforcement agencies: The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office and the police departments in Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland and San Francisco. 

The formula includes base salary, retirement benefits and add-ons like longevity pay and educational incentive pay. It does not include overtime.

An annual compensation survey released late Monday by the state department of Human Resources found the average take-home pay for those agencies is $118,164 while the average net pay for CHP officers is $109,476.

The new salary increase for CHP officers is expected to bring their base wages up to what the other agencies are paying.

According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the 7.9% increase is the biggest pay bump for the California Highway Patrol since at least 2003, when they were given a 7.7% increase. 

Police salaries are increasingly competitive and a source of friction among agencies seeking to fill growing vacancies with a shrinking pool of eligible applicants — sheriffs and police chiefs have said that a significant percentage of applicants fail background tests.

The state, meanwhile, isn’t making it any easier to hire police officers — particularly those who leave larger departments with shoddy disciplinary or criminal records and find employment at smaller organizations. New laws have raised the minimum hiring age of law enforcement officers to 21.

That has led to bidding wars among law enforcement agencies, who use anything from signing bonuses to gym memberships to lure in recruits

The Los Angeles City Council and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the past year each approved lucrative new law enforcement contracts in the interest of retaining officers.

CHP’s new recruiting plan

The CHP has had its own challenges hiring. Last year, the agency embarked on a hiring campaign called the CHP 1000 in which it committed to hiring hundreds of new officers. Its early ads highlighted pay, namely that entry-level officers could expect to earn $100,000 in their first year on the job.

Newsom in October vetoed a bill that aimed to help the CHP find more recruits. It would have raised the agency’s top enlistment age from 35 to 40. 

The CHP union advocated for the bill, telling lawmakers that “raising the maximum age from 35 to 40 will widen the pool of applicants, increase the number of cadets, and ultimately the number of officers committed to serve and protect the public.”

Newsom in his veto message wrote that CHP’s recent recruitment efforts had paid off, with the agency “on track to double” the number of cadets at its academy. 

The California Association of Highway Patrolmen, which represents about 7,000 officers, is the only state worker union that does not have to bargain over wage increases because of the law that sets officer compensation based on what other agencies pay. 

A bill this year would have given a similar perk to firefighters at the California Department of Forestry and Protection — or Cal Fire. It died in September without reaching Newsom. 

The bill would have compelled the state Human Resources Department to calculate wage increases for the 8,000 or so state firefighters every year based on what other 20 local fire departments pay.

The union representing Cal Fire firefighters has said that the state is losing firefighters to other departments because the state has not kept up with competing organizations’ salaries.

Salary increases for California state workers

The biggest general salary increase Newsom has offered to a public employee union during contract negotiations is 4%. That salary hike for the 100,000 employees represented by SEIU Local 1000, is scheduled for July 1, 2025, and the contract allows the governor to knock it down to 3% if the Finance Department finds the state can’t afford the full raise.

Although Newsom has held the line under 4% for general salary increases, his administration has offered a mix of bonuses and special pay raises for workers in hard-to-fill positions to retain employees in a period of high inflation. 

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

CalPERS Board Restores $99,000 Pension for CHP Officer Convicted of Molesting Daughters

The CalPERS Board of Administration voted Wednesday to restore the $99,000-per-year pension of a retired California Highway Patrol officer who was convicted of sexually molesting his two daughters. Johnnie Swaim, 56, of Imperial, was convicted of four felonies by a jury in 2013 in Imperial County Superior Court for molesting the two girls when each was under 10 years old. He maintained he was innocent. Swaim was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In 2016, while in corrections department custody, he filed for retirement based on his last day of work for the CHP in 2011, and started receiving a pension, then worth about $93,300 per year.

CalPERS reduced his benefit last year to about $14,000, wiping out service credit for the time he worked after the date of first felony conviction, which CalPERS identified as in 1997. The retirement system cited a state law that prevents public employees who commit felonies in the course of their work from continuing to accrue pensions. Swaim appealed, arguing that his convictions weren’t work-related. An administrative law judge sided with him last month, saying that while his crimes were “despicable,” they weren’t connected to his work as a police officer.

On Wednesday, the board voted without discussion to accept the judge’s ruling and restore Swaim’s pension. With cost-of-living increases that have been applied since 2016, it will be worth about $99,000 per year.

Click here to read the full article in the Sacramento Bee

Increase In CA Vehicle Registration Fee

As reported by Capital Public Radio:

The state will charge Californians more to put their cars on the roads next year as part of the state budget deal reached by Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders.

The agreement includes a $10 per year increase in the vehicle registration fee that funds the Department of Motor Vehicles and California Highway Patrol. It’s effective April 1, 2017.

The governor proposed the hike in January (see bottom of pg 7 in the link). His Department of Finance says without the increase, the state would need to make “significant budgetary cuts” such as reducing the number of CHP officers on patrol and closing DMV field offices.

The vehicle fee, currently $43, would increase to $53. It would then continue to rise incrementally based on the California Consumer Price Index. …

Click here to read the full article