San Carlos mulls future of police force

When San Carlos was incorporated in 1925, its Police Department consisted of one man: Chief Ed Wheeler.

The department, which now has 39 employees, may be put in the history books for good at 7 tonight if the City Council goes ahead with a plan to outsource law enforcement services to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

After months of deliberation, the City Council will consider signing a five-year contract with the department that officials say will provide the same level of patrol services and save the city $2 million per year. If approved, the change would take effect Oct. 31.

Facing a $3.5 million deficit in the current fiscal year’s $27 million budget, Mayor Randy Royce said the city had to look for ways to be more efficient. The Sheriff’s Office has said it can provide the service for $6.7 million per year, compared to the $8.9 million the city currently spends on its department.

While the Police Department would be dissolved, all of the full-time employees — 32 sworn officers and seven nonsworn staff — will be offered jobs at the much larger county agency, most at their current ranks.

Also tonight, the City Council will consider agreements with city unions — including the Police Officers Association, which previously opposed the plan — on the transition.

Police Chief Greg Rothaus would become a captain in the Sheriff’s Office and would lead the San Carlos bureau. The Sheriff’s Office pledged to maintain the city’s current patrol staffing of three deputies and one sergeant per shift, and will add a motorcycle traffic officer.

“From the front-end perspective, not much will change in the eyes of the public on the patrol sense, but it’s the backroom stuff that will be a little different,” Rothaus said.

sbishop@sfexaminer.com

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