In the past few years, police departments in smaller cities around San Mateo County have closed their doors, with police services contracted out to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.
But bucking the trend is the unincorporated community of Broadmoor, which continues to fund and operate its own department as it has done for more than 60 years.
In recent years, police departments in Half Moon Bay, Millbrae and San Carlos have contracted police services from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, said spokeswoman Rebecca Rosenblatt.
Maintaining a small force in the roughly 4,000-person community requires a mix of special funding and fiscal prudence. Years ago, residents of the community managed to secure the passage of a state bill for a special property tax — now $397 per year — to fund police services, said Dave Parenti, Broadmoor’s police chief. That tax, plus government grants, Parenti said, fund the department’s $2.2 million budget.
Managing that budget is an ongoing process.
“In four to five years, I don’t want to find out that we shut down,” Parenti said.
Minor savings, such as paying insurance annually instead of several times a year, are significant.
“That 10 percent saving amounts to about half a year of gas,” Parenti said. “That’s how you have to look at it.”
With city and county budgets tightening, not everyone sees Broadmoor’s department as a net positive for the larger community.
“In these economic times, I really do have to question whether it makes economic sense to have an additional layer of law enforcement when you have a really large department like ours,” said Patricia Martel, Daly City’s city manager.
Because Broadmoor is situated within Daly City’s limits, police jurisdiction is a complex issue with overlapping needs. Over time, property owners have shifted parcels from Broadmoor to Daly City, and in certain areas one side of a street is Broadmoor, while the other is Daly City, Parenti noted.
Occasionally, residents from Daly City request help from Broadmoor police.
“We help them anyway,” Parenti said.
The blurred boundaries require increased cooperation among the various police forces, and Broadmoor often works in cooperation with other departments, said Sgt. Michael Barton of the Daly City police.
“For the most part we get along,” said Officer Fabiola Hernandez of Broadmoor. “But we’re not best friends.”
Large cases require Broadmoor to seek help from nearby agencies. Although there hasn’t been a homicide in 20 years in Broadmoor, Parenti said that a recent bust of an illegal grow-house netted 500 plants. Broadmoor’s station didn’t have the capacity to store the plants, so Parenti involved the county narcotics division.
In spite of the challenges, Parenti is committed to the department and the community he serves.
“I’ve heard this place wasn’t going to last,” Parenti said. “But we’ve been around since 1948.”