Sheriff: Contract would save city $800K in annual police expenses

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Sheriffs deputies, Troutdale officers and citizens fill the police community room to hear the sheriffs proposal to contract police services with the city of Troutdale.A few things came to light during a three-hour discussion Tuesday night as the Multnomah County sheriff presented the Troutdale City Council with a proposal to contract police services with the city of Troutdale.

For one, Troutdale Police Chief Scott Anderson said he and Sheriff Dan Staton began talking about the possibility of consolidating services four years ago, but the right opportunity to make it possible hadn’t materialized until now.

“This has been a long time coming,” Anderson said.

The sheriff said the city of Fairview just recently became involved in the discussion.

“My first focus is we established something here in Troutdale,” Staton said.

Both the sheriff and police chief went on to discuss why consolidating police services would be a “win, win, win” for the city, the sheriff’s office and the citizens of Troutdale.

Troutdale’s police department serves a population of 16,005 and has 27 full-time employees, and the city pays $3.9 million to fund it, according to the proposal’s presenters.

By consolidating with the sheriff, the city would save about $800,000 a year, reducing its cost for police to $3.1 million annually.

Officers would fill nine vacancies

Part of the deal is Troutdale would transfer nine of its employees — five officers, two office assistants and two records technicians — to full-time

vacancies at the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.

“This is where the key savings starts for the city and the sheriff’s office,” Staton said.

The city no longer would have to pay for those nine positions, he said. The city would pay for the remaining 15 employees and contract them out to the sheriff’s department.

Staton said this is why timing is critical.

“I can’t keep these vacancies floating (forever),” he said.

No police department employees would lose their jobs or income as a result of the transfer.

Chief maintains position as commander

Troutdale police officers would become deputies.

“They would be the same cops in the same uniforms,” Anderson said.

The $7.5 million Troutdale police station that voters approved through a bond in 2010 would remain city property.

“This building belongs to the city of Troutdale,” the chief said. “If consolidation (occurs), it will still belong to the city.”

The sheriff’s office likely would lease the building from the city.

The only change, the chief said, would be officers’ badges, which would be replaced with the sheriff’s star.

Management, communication and reporting would stay the same, Anderson said. The chief would maintain his position and responsibilities as commander.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Sheriff Dan Staton (left) and Troutdale Police Chief Scott Anderson gave a presentation Tuesday night, April 1. The two have been in talks about consolidating services for four years.Anderson said at this time the biggest issue for Troutdale Police is a lack of supervision for officers on duty. “About 30 percent of the time, officers are out there without supervision,” he said.

Officers and sergeants often are split between having to fulfill multiple duties, which limits their patrol coverage.

Contracting with the sheriff would fill the gaps in staffing, he said.

Ideally, the city would have two police officers and one sergeant on duty 24/7.

Troutdale also would be able to make use of the sheriff’s wide range of resources — investigative units, river patrol, SWAT team, search and rescue, training units, records staff and other resources.

Troutdale police officers would benefit through expanded career opportunities, Staton said.

The sheriff would benefit too.

Costs would be saved by eliminating duplication of services, as well as overlapping costs for overtime, academy training, equipment, fleet, fuel and maintenance.

Negotiating a contract

Erich Mueller, Troutdale’s finance director, said contracting police services is not unusual in Oregon — 55 cities do it.

The five largest cities are Wilsonville, Happy Valley, Damascus, Sheridan and Creswell. If Troutdale contracted services, it would put the city at the second largest.

Mueller said a contract is accomplished through an intergovernmental agreement in which the city and sheriff’s office would come to terms on services, costs, local control provisions, and would involve labor unions.

“Everything a full service law enforcement is supposed to provide, that’s what I have to make sure we provide,” Staton said. “The chief would be responsible to this city and would be the one responding to everything in this city.”

If the agreement happens, Mueller said it would be a multi-year process. While the city has yet to act on the proposal, the sheriff said his hope would be to develop a 5- to 10-year contract.

One question raised was: If the Sheriff’s Office budget gets cut, what is the impact on city services?

“Should anything financially impact the Sheriff’s Office under the county general fund, that has no impact on a contract we have,” Staton said.

Services under contract are protected for the duration of the contract, he said. If the city was not satisfied with the services, it could terminate the contract.

A question of improving service

The sheriff also serves Wood Village, Maywood Park and Corbett, as well as other unincorporated areas. By taking on Troutdale, the number of citizens the sheriff serves would jump from 29,438 to roughly 45,000.

Asked by the council how effective he could be in a bureaucracy like the Sheriff’s Office, the Troutdale chief said he is absolutely confident he can do it or he wouldn’t have backed the proposal.

“I am not going to settle for less. I want people to get the best for taxpayers’ money we can possibly give them. I haven’t been able to accomplish that, and I don’t feel good about that.”

Leaders of both unions, the Troutdale Police Officers Association and the Deputy Sheriff’s Association, said they strongly support the sheriff’s proposal.

“We are all here as public servants,” said Greg Vining, union representative of the Troutdale group. “It’s a really good deal for the city and the citizens of Troutdale because they are going to improve services and save money.”

Mark Herron, president of the deputy association, said, “Ultimately, we are trying to provide a better service, period.” He said the sheriff’s deputies and Troutdale police already work well together.

Before they make a decision on whether to negotiate an agreement, a few councilors said they need more information to better understand how Staton’s proposal would actually play out.

“We need some numbers before we give a green light for staff to start negotiating,” Councilor David Ripma said. “You must have some ideas to demonstrate how this is going to work in savings and improved services.”

Councilor Rich Allen raised a question: If 27 city employees were absorbed into the sheriff’s department, would there actually be fewer officers in the city serving the same population?

“I can’t help but think that somebody’s going to lose in this,” Allen said.

The council decided it will schedule another work session to more carefully evaluate the details of the sheriff’s proposal, and give the public another opportunity to hear it.

After the second work session, likely sometime in April, the Troutdale City Council will vote on whether to begin working on an intergovernmental agreement with the Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s comments

In a meeting with The Outlook, Staton said the Sheriff’s Office already works for cities and unincorporated areas, and generally does not interfere with law enforcement of a city.

But four years ago, he started looking at all the cities, budget cuts and some of the problems cropping up in East County.

“Scott (Anderson) and I started to talk,” he said.

The discussion was to start merging some of the units to protect jobs and provide a broader base service, he said.

It made sense because the Sheriff’s Office has districts on the west, east and south sides of Troutdale, including river patrol.

“We (Troutdale and the Sheriff’s Office) cover each other already,” Staton said.

The Sheriff’s Office began looking at redistricting its coverage two years ago, but at that time there were no vacancies in the department.

Only recently nine positions opened up after several retirements.

“If we don’t work on some kind of combined service, both the city and the county and the citizens will ultimately feel it,” Staton said.

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