Santa Clarita City Council members are set to approve Tuesday a new five-year contract likely to include more than $21 million of service from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which is the major funding mechanism for the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.
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Determining what the contractual obligations for law enforcement in the Santa Clarita Valley is part of about a yearlong negotiation, said Capt. Rick Mouwen of the Sheriff’s Department’s Contract Law Enforcement Bureau.
The Sheriff’s Department finishes its current five-year contract with the city of Santa Clarita in June, which is what prompted the negotiation process.
“We began last year by contacting some city managers of contract cities,” Mouwen said. “All 42 of our cities sign the same agreement — it is a consolidated program.”
The Sheriff’s Department is that nation’s largest law enforcement organization to offer contracted services, a tradition that began in 1954, with the incorporation of Lakewood.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors only approves contracts for up to five years, Mouwen said. Santa Clarita is one of the largest, with Lancaster and Palmdale paying slightly more.
The basic general law contract figure in 2013-14 covered 8,361,300 minutes of deputy patrols, as well as more than 7,156 hours of civilian services, and other related costs. This cost was up slightly from the 2012-13 contract, which covered 8,253,960 minutes for about $19.35 million.
The year-over-year cost increase rose 2.6 percent, Mouwen said, according to Los Angeles County figures. The total cost is expected to be around $21.2 million for 2014-15.
Each city has a similarly structured contract, with the level of service being tracked down to the minute, according to Santa Clarita and Sheriff’s Department officials.
Before the contract is drawn up, representatives from various contract cities get together with Sheriff’s Department officials to discuss contract concerns.
“They wanted some assurances that we were delivering the minutes and hours that we’re contracted to deliver,” Mouwen said, adding part of the language added includes monthly and quarterly meetings to assess the contract to make sure a compliance levels.
“Generally, what it is is most cities want a 98 (percent) to 102 percent compliance level,” Mouwen said. “But we’re not making widgets — we’re certainly going to have these fluctuations in the city we’re serving.”
Santa Clarita city officials reported a 99.8 percent compliance with the previous Sheriff’s Department contract, according to city documents.
Mouwen, who has about 16 years of experience with his bureau, said part of his unit’s responsibility includes feasibility studies on behalf of the department, to determine whether it’s cost efficient for a city to contract services versus create its own police department.
“When it happens, it’s usually budget-driven,” Mouwen said of the studies, adding the Sheriff’s Department receives about one or two requests every year.
One of the biggest benefits for a city is a cost savings in a number of areas, he said.
“In my opinion and my experience here, the No. 1 cause (for cities to request Sheriff’s Department services) has been increasing pension costs for the independent police department,” he said, when asked about the financial benefits.
The cities also pool a liability fund, with each contractual partner paying roughly 4 percent of the contract into the county for protection from lawsuits. A committee comprised of city representatives collectively determines when and how the liability fund should be used in the event of litigation against a contracted city.
There are also service benefits, Mouwen said, which go beyond already having a support services, experience and leadership already in place.
While the Sheriff’s Department’s aerial units and SWAT teams are available to all Los Angeles County cities, regardless of whether they have a police services contract, there’s a greater conformity of service that exists in contract cities, he said.
Comparing a hypothetical hostage-situation call in Pasadena and Santa Clarita, he said the response time would likely be a little faster in Santa Clarita, a contract city, versus Pasadena, which has its own police department.
“From the time a call is dispatched, you’ve got the support going out there,” Mouwen said. “The communication is already being made to our SWAT people. There’s no need to ask for permission — they’re already rolling up to Santa Clarita.”
If that same situation were to occur Pasadena: “You’ve lost a little bit of a continuity in the timeliness of that response,” he said, “just from being on a different communication system.”
Locally in Santa Clarita, the city sees a number of other benefits from the partnership extending beyond the $18.8 million general law contract, which the city does pay extra for, city officials said.
“There’s also some additional positions under the public safety umbrella,” said Casey Bingham, an administrative analyst with the city of Santa Clarita. We have a separate contract for a probation officer that’s contracted,” Bingham said.
And the Juvenile Intervention Team, which was created by former Capt. Paul Becker to meet city need, pays for additional resources such as Sgt. Bob Wachsmuth. “He’s a really good resource for the J-Team.”
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There’s also a special events budget supporting events like the talk held by Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Deputy Josh Dubin.
Dubin, who conducts outreach, as well as monitoring public transit concern within the city’s bus system, is hosting a talk Wednesday at City Hall aimed at informing parents what children should know about their children’s online and social media activities.
The city also shares the cost for school resource deputies at schools within city limits, Bingham said.
“We feel it’s important that our schools are safe and that’s something that we wanted to do,” he said. “We do split the cost with (Los Angeles County).”
The Santa Clarita City Council is expected to approve a contract at Tuesday’s City Council meeting; however the total cost for public safety services could vary according to the city’s need.
The adjustments to the contract are made collaboratively, Bingham said, noting some times the Sheriff’s Station captain mentions a concern, or it could come from City Manager Ken Striplin’s office.
“The sheriff will see where the needs are and makes adjustments — if the city feels there’s a need there that needs to be taken care of,” he said. “There’s not a lot, but we do make adjustments to be responsive to what the needs are.”
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Source: Santa Clarita News