SALINAS, Calif.- The men and women on the Central Coast who wear a badge, are hired to protect and serve our communities. But do they have the protection they need? We're finding out why one police department thinks it's too vulnerable.
The Salinas Police Department doesn't have a fence around its parking lot. That means anyone could have easy access to those officers at any time, day or night. Officers said the whole parking lot is like open target for someone who would want harm an officer.
"Anybody could wait at the back door and the first officer that comes out be assaulted," said Deputy Chief Terry Gerhardstein.
No fence, no protective gate, basically there's nothing guarding officers and their gear from anyone who wants to cause a problem in the parking lot. Gerhardstein said the station was built in the fifties and is way behind most police stations on the Central Coast. Typically the back entrance is fenced in, giving officers a sense to security as they hop in and out of a squad car.
"These vehicles routinely hold thousands of dollars worth of equipment in them. We've recently had several vehicles damaged to the tune of over $7,000 dollars," Gerhardstein said.
The department's mobile command unit is only covered by an overhang to protect the top. It's worth more than $200,000 dollars and there's nothing to keep it locked up. It's not just property damage Gerhardstein is worried about. His biggest fear is having a crime scene right out the back door. A fear that was all too real for Coeur D'Alene, Idaho in 1998, where a state trooper was shot dead in the parking lot as she left police headquarters. Gerhardstein said Salinas Police is just too vulnerable.
"We've had incidences where we've been able to intercept text messages from gang members indicating that they know our SWAT team is gearing to go do a search warrant that's a huge officer safety problem," Gerhardstein said.
The department is hoping to get approval from the city this month on a new $100,000 dollar eight foot fence. The money would come from Measure V passed by voters 2005.
This all comes, as a group called "the committee of Salinas residents" paired up with the Salinas Taxpayers Association to discuss a quarter-cent sales tax increase, over the next ten years to build a new police station. The group is also talking about an additional quarter or half cent tax, dedicated to hiring more police officers.