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Council open to police options



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November 24, 2010 - When it comes to police services, it appears the Oxford Village Council is open to all options.

Council recently discussed proposals involving the village police offering law enforcement services to the township and the Oakland County Sheriff's Department offering its services to the village.

"I think it's important that we do reach across to the township and/or discuss with the county shared services," said Councilman Tony Albensi. "I think it's important in this day and age that communities get together and share these types of services . . . As far as I'm concerned anything's on the table when it comes to shared services, specifically when it comes to the safety of our communities."

First up was a draft proposal for the township to contract with the village police for law enforcement services.

It was put together by Keith Redlin, a village police reserve officer and township resident, with help from the village administration and police.

"I feel confident what we put together was credible," he told council.

Under Redlin's proposal, the village would supply the township with two full-time patrol sergeants, four full-time officers, 10 part-time officers, one full-time juvenile/school liaison officer, one full-time detective, one records clerk and 12 reserve officers (unpaid volunteers).

The contract cost was estimated to be $1.76 million in the first year, which represents a savings over the township's current police budget of $2.15 million.

Over five years, Redlin estimated the township could save $2.67 million by contracting with the village.

In addition to saving money, the township would also be getting 18 uniformed officers with the village versus the 15 officers it currently has through its contract with the sheriff's department.

Redlin told council his proposal has "nothing to do" with saying one department is "better or worse" than the other.

"The county police department is an excellent police department," he said.

To Redlin, it's simply a matter of economics and being able to keep officers on the streets as opposed to being forced to cut them due to budgetary reasons.

The township is facing the possibility of having to cut up to five of its sheriff's officers because the 0.75-mill police tax increase it was seeking recently failed at the polls by a margin of 2,885 to 2,883. A recount has been scheduled for Nov. 29 (see story on Page 1).

Redlin indicated his proposal is also about increasing the level of police service for township residents by providing things that currently aren't available such as a school liaison officer.

Having a school liaison officer would be an "invaluable resource," in his opinion, as far as providing visibility and mentoring in the schools.

During the summer months, this officer could continue investigating juvenile crimes and even be used for other duties such as traffic safety.

"That is a huge benefit to this community," Redlin said.

He noted that under his proposal the school district wouldn't have to pay anything for the officer.

Currently, the schools have budgeted $50,000 for the position should the township ever decide to fund the other half.

"I would recommend those funds going back into our schools or some type of scholarship fund," Redlin said.

In the end, Redlin said he was basically looking for council's input and stamp of approval.

"I have not finalized anything. I just want (your) blessing so we can continue to go forward," he said. "It's a working document and draft. Until I get the final version buttoned up with your approval, I would try to keep it that way."

Overall, council was impressed with Redlin's proposal and grateful to him for creating it.

"It was really comprehensive and really easy to understand. You did a great job," said village President Teri Stiles.

Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth also praised Redlin, but noted, "I myself still need to go over the numbers, not that I don't trust you guys."

Council voted 5-0 to direct the village manager and police chief to proceed with talks with the township regarding the possibility of providing police services to it.

Following Redlin's proposal, council heard from Undersheriff Mike McCabe regarding a proposal from the county to take over police and/or dispatch services in the village.

"I think our track record speaks for itself," McCabe told council. "We've been in the contract police business for over 50 years. We've never had one community that has fired us."

A proposal from the county was originally requested by village Manager Joe Young back in July.

The sheriff's proposal contained four options for policing the village. Options 1-3 ranged in cost from $606,664 to $740,237 per year with staffing scenarios that included four deputies with or without a detective sergeant to man a village substation. Prices included dispatch services.

Currently, the village has a total of $853,227 budgeted for its in-house police and dispatch services. That breaks out to $581,223 for police and $272,004 for dispatch.

If the village wanted just dispatch services from the sheriff's department, the proposal indicated that would cost $26,248 annually.

"I think the sheriff's office conversely can offer some things to you that will create some huge savings," McCabe said. "The bottom line is this, you folks have got to decide what you want to do."

Option 4 was for the village to partner with the township to provide coverage for both communities through the township's existing sheriff's substation.

"My personal recommendation is if you really want to have true savings and a true community feel, that you explore with Mr. Dunn (township supervisor) and the township board, shared services," McCabe said.

Sheriff's contracts aren't a one-size-fits-all proposition.

"We model our contracts to meet the individual communities," McCabe said. "We police large communities like Rochester Hills with 70,000 people to little communities like Addison Township right next door with about 6,700 people."

Under a sheriff's contract, the county assumes all the liability, which means municipalities don't have to worry about being sued for officers' actions. They also don't have to worry about the expenses associated with replacing equipment.

"If a (sheriff's) patrol car gets wrecked, the next day there's a brand new one there to take its place," McCabe said.

McCabe indicated he was willing to make a formal presentation at a future meeting, if council so desired.

"I think it's important that we explore all options, so I would like to see you come back," Albensi said.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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