Monterey County

Salinas police and fire keep thousands secure at Rodeo grounds

Policing the Rodeo

SALINAS, Calif. - Thousands of cowboys and cowgirls are celebrating this year's California Rodeo Salinas.  On Wednesday night, the Professional Bull Riding contest almost sold out, bringing in a little over 10,000 people.  But it takes a lot of resources to manage a big event like the Rodeo, while keeping an eye on the rest of the city.  NewsChannel 5 spent time with Salinas Police to find out how officers and fire crews work together to monitor keep and everything under control.

Salinas Police said during Big Week, they have 286 spots to fill, with officers and community service volunteers.  It's a lot to cover, especially for a department that's already understaffed.  

"It's a challenge to have a lot of officers out here. I mean we cover the rodeo arena, the bulls crossing, the carnival and the parades and all of that takes a lot of resources, a lot of officers," said Salinas Police Sgt. Ono Solis.

Solis said he's been with the department for 25 years.  It's not his first Rodeo, but it his last.  As he looks to retirement, he sees the Rodeo as one of the best opportunities for Salinas Police to shine.

"Aside from looking for the obvious things, you know the disturbances and those things, you know we talked about interacting with the community and especially the kids," Sgt. Solis said.

Police work hand in hand with the Salinas Fire, using some big tools, including six surveillance cameras for large-scale events like the Rodeo.  The command post is set up with all of the computers and phones and equipment local law enforcement and fire crews need during an emergency.

"Assisting the police department in crowd monitoring, we can find lost kids, we have thermal images of the parking lot.  We can see people getting into places they shouldn't be," said Salinas Fire Department Capt. Sam Klemek.

About 20 officers patrol the Rodeo at any point, looking mostly for alcohol-related incidents.  Officers aren't allowed to take time off during the Rodeo because there's so many spots to fill.  The officers assigned to the Rodeo, stay where they're at.  If a big incident happens somewhere else in Salinas, it's up to the other officers on patrol to cover.  That's why fire crews play a major role in monitoring the Rodeo.  

"If they get a report of something we can actually hone in on it, before they can actually get officers there, record the events and will be able to pass that information onto the police department," Capt. Klemek said.

There's also upwards of 40 private paid security working the Rodeo along with about 100 volunteer security.  They help police and fire monitor the event.

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