Ira Sharp | Crest Road
The finance committee has proposed a huge expansion of the role of the city manager and an unsustainable increase in the City’s indebtedness that have gone largely unnoticed. We believe the finance committee’s plan to replace the contract with the County Sheriff to provide law enforcement for our city with a stand-alone Del Mar police department requires further study because of critical unanswered questions and the bias of the consultant’s underlying business.
Many could support a new department if proven we could get the same or better service at less cost. We question if the various consultant and committee reports have objectively forecast the true costs of a stand-alone department or the risks to our community entailed in giving up the security of the Sheriff’s deep bench of talent and resources. Recent crime statistics show that the current services from the Sheriff have led to stable and declining crime rates even in the face of increased numbers of visitors to the beach and Fairgrounds events targeting younger audiences. The finance committee, city staff, and City Council are relying on analyses prepared by a consultant, Ralph Anderson, who has an obvious bias. His firm is in the business of charging fees to staff police departments. We call on the city to retain an unbiased financial firm to prepare an objective cost-benefit analysis before moving forward.
Until these questions are answered, a healthy dose of skepticism about the finance committee report remains. Establishing a police department with 14 new employees, with attendant bureaucracy and union issues, would be one of the most far-reaching decisions made in the history of Del Mar.
Examples of questions that have not been addressed include:
• Where would a new police station be located?
• The cost of building a 4000 foot police headquarters, with parking, is estimated by Ralph Anderson at $2 million, about $500 per foot. Yet the new city hall is costing about $1500 per foot. How can those estimates be reconciled?
• What back-up response would we have in case of a major incident (train wreck, political protest, major fire, etc.)?
• If we require services from the Sheriff (SWAT, helicopter, crime lab, et al) how will we access them and what will we be charged?
• The police chief would presumably report to the city manager or assistant city manager. No raise is factored into the cost estimate, yet we know that in many cities the number of employees and assets supervised are factors in managers’ compensation.
• Is it reasonable to assume that an 18-person department can be supported by one administrative assistant or that a city which has had difficulty retaining or replacing outstanding members of the city manager’s staff will successfully retain qualified officers in one of the smallest police departments in the state?
The terms of three members of the finance committee are expiring. We call on City Council to select new members who, together with an objective cost-benefit analysis by an objective financial firm, will provide us with the facts we must have in order to make the right decision with such far reaching consequences.