One year after San Carlos outsourced its police work to the county Sheriff’s Office, officials from both agencies say the partnership is going great and has produced the cost savings that city officials desired.
“From San Carlos’ perspective we couldn’t be happier,” said San Carlos City Manager Jeff Maltbie. “Now we’ve got a year under our belt, and we have had the savings we expected.”
The relationship’s anniversary comes as Millbrae considers becoming the latest small city in San Mateo County to cut costs by contracting for service with the Sheriff’s Office.
After years of cuts to its own police budget, last year San Carlos shuttered its department and began paying the Sheriff’s Office for police services. Maltbie said the city has the same coverage level as before the change, with one sergeant and three deputies on duty at all times. But that level of service now costs the city just $6.7 million a year, about $2 million less than it was paying previously, Maltbie said.
San Carlos also has received other benefits, Maltbie said. Response times are the same or improved, he said, and deputies who previously covered unincorporated county areas near San Carlos now pick up calls within city limits. The Sheriff’s Office is now more involved in community events, he added, and brings equipment for displays that the city Police Department did not have.
Undersheriff Carlos Bolanos agrees that his department’s partnerships with San Carlos and Half Moon Bay, which also outsourced its police work, are going well. He said it’s understandable that communities have pride in their police departments and have concerns when giving up local control, but he believes the end result of these two partnerships has been better public service.
Bolanos noted that the two cities each get to decide what their staffing levels should be, and then deputies work exclusively in those cities except in the case of large emergencies that would normally result in interdepartmental cooperation.
And the faces on the beat are also familiar — at least for now. Bolanos said that all the officers from San Carlos and Half Moon Bay were retained by the Sheriff’s Office. San Carlos police officers even got a pay increase when they became sheriff’s deputies, Bolanos said.
The costs are lower due to reduced administrative and overhead expenses. The county can train more deputies at a time and has a larger pool of officers to draw from to cover for illness or other absences. Also, he said, to add an extra shift covering just Fridays and Saturdays, it is cheaper to pay a deputy overtime than hire another one full time.
“There’s a lot of interest because of the economic times,” Bolanos said. He said the interest has come from cities because of their own financial issues, with no push from his agency.