Law enforcement leaders explore joining forces in tight budget times.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
With city coffers short on cash and Peninsula cities blazing ahead on merging fire departments, law enforcement leaders are kicking around the idea of regional policing, which would allow cities to combine ranks and cut down on administrative overhead.
Monterey City Manager Fred Meurer points out that every Peninsula city from Marina to Carmel, including tiny Sand City and Del Rey Oaks, has a police chief.
“If you’re visiting the Peninsula, it seems like you just dropped into a city of 100,000,” he says. “How many police chiefs would a city of 100,000 have? One.”
Monterey, Seaside, Carmel and Pacific Grove are in the process of forming a joint powers authority. In the first phase, the four cities would share one fire chief. Although P.G. City Council has endorsed the concept, final approvals are not a done deal. Police protection could be the next service to go regional.
This week, Monterey County police chiefs discussed regional policing at the association’s annual workshop. Peninsula cities also recently formed a roving SWAT team, and a countywide narcotics and violent crime task force overseen by the state Department of Justice is in the works.
“We’re now seeing regional special teams, special units,” says Greenfield Police Chief Joe Grebmeier. “All that may lead us to a future of regional policing.”
Grebmeier says the distance between south county cities makes regional patrols difficult to implement, but that doesn’t mean chiefs haven’t flirted with the concept.
“The discussion around merging of police services has been around forever,” says Marina Police Chief Eddie Rodriguez, adding that local chiefs have talked about sharing records management and animal services. “Money is so tight, more people are considering it as an option.”
Rodriguez cautions, however, that unlike fire services, for which emergency response is fairly uniform, police departments have different enforcement priorities.
Sheriff candidates are also pushing for consolidation of police services.
“The future of law enforcement is in cooperative patrol services,” says Sheriff Mike Kanalakis. He says his office is looking into whether it makes financial sense to police certain cities, but declines to elaborate.
Former P.G. police chief Scott Miller says that as sheriff, he would look into combining recruiting, training, administrative and investigative services with other law enforcement departments.
“The biggest hurdle in the past years has been failure to be willing to even analyze things,” Miller says. “This stuff should have been vetted in the last 10 years.”