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Prospects of rising costs and a long-term contract commitment have led Rancho Cordova officials to re-evaluate the city's law enforcement options, including forming its own Police Department.

Rancho Cordova looks at new contract options for its Police Department

Published: Tuesday, May. 28, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jun. 18, 2013 - 9:14 am

Prospects of rising costs and a long-term contract commitment have led Rancho Cordova officials to re-evaluate the city's law enforcement options, including forming its own Police Department.

Since incorporating 10 years ago, Rancho Cordova has contracted with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department for police services. The current three-year contract expires June 30, and Sheriff Scott Jones has proposed a five-year term for a new contract.

Jones said he initiated discussions about the future relationship with the city so he could plan for the Sheriff's Department's long-term staffing. With expiration of the current Deputy Sheriffs' Association contract next year, Jones said he anticipates between 100 and 150 deputies and sergeants will retire by early summer 2014.

If Rancho Cordova were to end its contract, Jones said, deputies and other employees assigned to the city's Police Department would have to be reassigned.

"Because we no longer have the luxury of any fluff in the budget," he said, "this is the only time I could absorb them back into the sheriff's office with no layoffs or reduction in service."

Rancho Cordova officials said they are happy with the Sheriff's Department's services. Their only concern is rising costs.

"My decision is almost always based on cost," said City Manager Ted Gaebler.

When he began his career in public administration 40 years ago, Gaebler said, law enforcement costs typically accounted for 35 percent of a city's general fund budget. Now they account for about 80 percent, due largely to increased costs for technology and employee pensions, he said.

"That's more than a doubling of cost for the same service. … Public safety has gotten to be a very expensive proposition," Gaebler said.

A decade after incorporation, Rancho Cordova continues to contract for police, community planning and legal services, and on occasion, building inspection services, said Mayor Linda Budge.

Contract services have given the city flexibility to reduce or ramp up staffing as need and fiscal conditions dictate, without laying off people. Contract employees whose services are no longer needed by the city can be transferred to jobs elsewhere by the contracting firms, Budge said.

Residents as well as council members have voiced satisfaction with the Sheriff's Department's service, but with the law enforcement contract up for renewal, Budge said, the council directed staff members to study other options. The results are to be presented to the council June 3.

In addition to the option of creating its own Police Department, the city is looking at contracting with another law enforcement agency. Gaebler said he talked with other jurisdictions and that the Citrus Heights Police Department agreed to submit a proposal.

"We were flattered to receive the invitation," said Citrus Heights Police Chief Christopher Boyd.

Boyd said the department hadn't considered providing contract service until it was approached by Rancho Cordova. He doesn't view it as a bidding war with the Sheriff's Department.

"We're not approaching it from a comparison perspective, but how could we take the Citrus Heights policing model and implement it in Rancho Cordova," he said.

Formed in 2006, the Citrus Heights department serves a population of about 84,000 and an area of 14.23 square miles. It is staffed by 90 full-time sworn officers and 52 full-time civilian employees, Boyd said.

The Sheriff's Department dedicates the equivalent of 56.5 full-time sworn officers and 11 other staff members to the Rancho Cordova Police Department. The city, with a population of about 67,000, covers about 33.5 square miles, according to the state Department of Finance and 2010 census.

But through a shared command, a sheriff's captain serves as Rancho Cordova's police chief and oversees the sheriff's East Division, also housed in the city's police station. Deputies assigned to each entity are able to back up one another, Budge said.

Gaebler said he was privy to the analyses and discussions Citrus Heights and Elk Grove officials conducted when those cities, which initially contracted with the Sheriff's Department after incorporation, decided to form their own police departments.

Rancho Cordova also has called on Doug Diamond, a former sheriff's captain and Rancho Cordova police chief who is now police chief in West Jordan, Utah, to help evaluate law enforcement options.

If Rancho Cordova chooses to continue with the Sheriff's Department, Jones said he would request either a five-year contract, or a three-year contract with no "out" clause. Under the current pact, either party can end the contract with 18 months' notice.

"If the analyses show that they are the best option," Gaebler said of the Sheriff's Department, "I would be happy to have a five-year contract."

Whatever option Rancho Cordova chooses, officials said, the Sheriff's Department will continue to provide policing services for at least a year to allow for a transition period.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

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