As Millbrae prepares to decide the future of its police services – whether to maintain its own department with additional funds or outsource to the Sheriff’s Office – Patch reviewed the effects of San Carlos disbanding its police force.
San Carlos outsourced its 85-year-old police department to the Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 31, 2010.
“From day one, [the transfer] was extremely smooth,” said Greg Rothaus, the Sheriff Captain assigned to San Carlos. “We responded to emergencies as quickly as we ever had.”
Rothaus was the San Carlos police chief since 2005, essentially keeping the same job, but with a different title.
“The lead up to it was the toughest time. It was gut-wrenching,” he said. “But since the transition, I cant’ think of anything that was negative.”
Before contracting out services, San Carlos employed 32 sworn officers, and the city spent about $8.9 million per year on its police department. After outsourcing, there are now 19 sworn officers, and its annual costs are about $2 million less.
The sheriff’s proposal is expected to save Millbrae over $400,000, however, the exact amount is still undetermined.
The Sheriff’s Office hired all San Carlos police department employees – many of them work in the county jail now – and is expected to do the same for Millbrae’s. Nine original officers remain patrolling San Carlos.
Although there are fewer officers in San Carlos, the level of service has remained about the same, according to a Sept. 12 City of San Carlos study.
Rothaus said it is because the city does not need to hire extra cops to cover shifts for those sick or on-leave.
The average emergency response time has not changed, and Part 1 crimes, such as rapes, murders, aggravated assault and robbery, have decreased slightly.
The San Carlos Police Department had a better property crime solving rate, while the Sheriff’s Office is more effective with violent crimes, according to the study.
Felony arrests increased about 35 percent since the transition, in part due to more regular checks of probationers and parolees conducted by the Sheriff’s Office, Rothaus said.
San Carlos conducted two surveys measuring resident’s satisfaction with the Sheriff’s Office. Out of the 102 surveys completed, citizens were 98 percent satisfied with services.
San Carlos was the first city in San Mateo County to contract out its police service, and in June, became the second.
Statewide, about 100 cities have chosen to outsource their police services.
In 2009, Ralph Anderson & Associates conducted a survey for the city of Yorba Linda regarding its decision to outsource, and concluded that "...after reviewing budget, staffing, and crime rate data, the cities which contract for law enforcement services pay a lower per capita cost for these services, have fewer staff and have a lower crime rate than those cities with their own police departments."
The survey, however, warns of "variations in data reporting" regarding crime statistics, notably sheriff's offices in some counties not writing reports for all incidents, while some cities write more than necessary. But Anderson found no conclusive evidence linking a city's safety with how much it spends on police services.
Millbrae will hold two public meetings regarding the police department, on Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 5 at 9 a.m. in the Chetcuti Room, located at 450 Poplar Ave.
In a , about 80 percent of respondents do not think the police department should be outsourced.
San Carlos Patch Editor Kenny Porpora contributed to this report.