Tuesday, June 29, 2010

San Carlos disbands its police force

(06-29) 08:03 PDT SAN CARLOS --
The city of San Carlos has voted to dissolve its police force and to begin the steps to outsource the job of law enforcement to the San Mateo County sheriff's office as a cost-cutting measure.

The City Council voted 4-1 on Monday night to disband its 85-year-old Police Department to help save nearly two-thirds of next year's $3.5 million deficit. The council directed city staff to begin negotiating with the sheriff's office, said Mayor Randy Royce, who voted to scrap the city's 32-member force.

Royce noted that the sheriff's office, which has 462 deputies, has agreed to offer full-time jobs to all San Carlos officers. Redwood City police, which had also offered to take over police services, could not make such a guarantee.

"We do have a lot of local cops, and those local cops will continue to work," Royce said today. "If you look at any organization, it's good to have some change. We'll have the best of both worlds. 

Having the mix of existing local cops and new officers, they'll be able to provide as good, if not better, level of service."

Councilman Matt Grocott cast the lone dissenting vote, saying he supported the idea of a joint powers authority under which the city would maintain its police force but partner with another agency.
Grocott, the San Carlos Police Officers Association and Ken Castle, who leads San Carlos' largest neighborhood watch group, were among those who criticized outsourcing on the grounds that it would cost the city control over its affairs.

"I think this decision has been a foregone conclusion for the last six months - nothing surprises me," Castle said today. "I think the council has not been listening to the concerns of most of the people that have been speaking over these last several months and they're determined to move ahead with this."

Royce said it may take about two months for city staff and a consultant to work out the details with the sheriff's office. But the transition will be rather quick afterward, he said, "to be fair to our officers and our employees in the Police Department. They've been kind of sitting on pins and needles. They want to know what is going on."

There's plenty of precedent in the Bay Area for outside agencies policing small cities, but none of those cities ever had its own police force. Locally, only Sonoma, which dissolved its police department in 2004 and turned to the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department to save money, has ever decided to outsource its police force

Submitted by Jim Alex

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