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Policing alternatives worth further study

By in Press Enterprise on July 12, 2017

By Press-Enterprise Editorial Board

Facing unsustainable increases in contract costs with the Sheriff’s Department, several Riverside County cities have continued looking into going their own way.

Over the past five years, cities contracting for police services have experienced annual contract cost increases of roughly 5 to 7 percent. Given that police services make up a significant portion of city budgets, such rates force cities to choose between cutting police or other services or raising taxes, or all three over time.

There is no mystery as to why these rates have gone up so rapidly. The problem mostly comes down to generous contracts doled out by the Board of Supervisors to the unions representing the employees of the Sheriff’s Department, particularly the politically influential Riverside Sheriffs’ Association, which incidentally donates heavily in county elections..

Prompted by these cost increases, more than dozen cities expressed an interest in the possibility of forming a joint powers authority to provide policing services as an alternative to the Sheriff’s Department.

Ultimately, 10 cities — Coachella, Jurupa Valley, Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Moreno Valley, Perris, San Jacinto, Temecula and Wildomar — moved ahead with a study to evaluate such a JPA. So far, Coachella, Moreno Valley and Perris have heard presentations, with Temecula to follow soon.

Early indications suggest it might be possible for the participating cities to save, as a group, under a JPA alternative to the Sheriff’s Department. Matrix Consulting Group has reported possible savings of as much as 10 percent, or $14 million combined. With those sorts of figures, Jurupa Valley Mayor Verne Lauritzen was correct in observing, “it would be foolish not to see this through and see where it takes us.”

There are, however, some complications. The advantages drop off rapidly if either Moreno Valley or Temecula fail to participate, though both would apparently save the most under such a model. And […]    

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