Cities must decide between police or sheriff coverage

The question has been asked across several financially challenged municipalities in recent months: To shutter the local police department or not?

Two communities in particular, Colton and Rialto, have both dodged attempts to cut city police forces and contract support enforcement from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office. This apparently won’t happen any time soon in the neighboring communities that lie immediately west of San Bernardino.

A third nearby community, Redlands, underwent massive cuts more recently. Police officials strongly warded off any hint that the city would cut city police services in favor of contracting with the county sheriff.

Colton, which made deep cuts to its administrative staff last year, studied the possibility of contracting with the sheriff’s department but ultimately did not pursue the matter. Audits revealed the city could save more than $8 million annually by contracting outside law enforcement and fire services.

“The aspect of getting to that number could mean serious service reduction,” said Colton City Manager Rod Foster said. “It would mean less officers on the street.”

Working with labor groups seeking to initiate some of the audit’s proposals is the next step, said Foster. “If everybody does their part, I think Colton will see that new day in hopefully the same form it is now.”

Rialto has undergone other issues, including an actual city council vote in 2004 to court county support. While several area communities utilize sheriff’s deputies as their primary peace keepers, Rialto has avoided this result.

In 2004, its city council heard proposals by the sheriff’s department, which said it could save the city more than $3 million a year in patrolling the community of 42,000.

A public vote would be the next step after Rialto police fought a court battle to regain control.

“That would be the next step,” said Sgt. Richard Royce, who is the president of the Rialto Police Benefit Association.

Sheriff’s deputies aren’t the answer for every city, he said.

“If any city thinks they can save $3 million to $4 million by contracting out, they need to take a hard look at it,” Royce said. “They’re not going to get the same level of service or the same number of bodies.”

Redlands, which has used camera surveillance of its downtown sector to assist in several recent arrests, has implemented online reporting for non-emergency issues. Its main provisions are that citizen reports are not emergencies, do not involve known suspects, and occur within city limits and not on a state freeway.


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