Is a regional police force in Riverside county worth it?

Vincent Ta/HIGHLANDER
Vincent Ta/HIGHLANDER

 

When anyone starts off in a new city at a new college, they look at the area. Is it safe? Is it secure? We all asked that question about the city surrounding UCR. While views on that differ, we have our own police department on the corner of campus, so the immediate area is always protected. But what about the rest of the city and county, when we aren’t going to and from classes?

It turns out that 17 cities in Riverside county currently do not have their own regional police forces, but are under contracts that hire the Sheriff’s department in lieu of their own. While this may have been a great solution once upon a time, the prices have risen at least seven percent — a trend that has been described as onerous by Lake Elsinore’s city manager, Grant Yates. These police protection services are already one of, if not the greatest part of city budgets, and forms of tax revenue from property and sales have not kept up.

Well, what alternative is there? A regional police force would certainly be a great permanent solution, it seems. As always, starting out any venture requires a significant cost, but can be a beneficial investment. As a small scale example, take studying. Oftentimes, it will replace a more favorable activity, and can be tiring or unenjoyable. However, with diligence and hard work, all the hours spent translate into knowledge and experience, which results in an A on the next exam or even an employment opportunity. Though the returns are not always immediate, the end result is worth more than what those hours would have been otherwise spent on — whether that’s one more outing with friends or additional time watching television.

Following this line of reasoning with the decision regarding a regional police force, it would mean working toward a new solution, rather than sticking with contracts and their cost hikes. For example, a “joint powers of authority” act was proposed to several mayors at a meeting in Temecula. This plan, if carried through, will include all of the 13 cities looking to bring a better solution to the public. Currently, this entails ending the contracts and forming a new joint police agency, so that the participating cities would be able to work as a group to combat expenses and function independently of the Riverside County Sheriff Department. The process has been slow, and according to Moreno Valley City Manager Michelle Dawson,“It’s just an opportunity to explore one potential avenue of saving money. I don’t know if it’s feasible. None of us do. That’s why we need an expert consultant on board to let us know if it’s even possible.”

Needing an expert consultant is just one of the setbacks — many city officials have predicted another layer of bureaucracy, and smaller cities are likely to opt out of the joint powers authority plan on account of how much the effort could cost, but I believe the end result is worth it. What has been simply start-up talk has already resulted in an audit of city expenses in order to better understand the situation. The audit was authorized by county supervisors earlier this year after cities have made known their complaints about the increase in contract rates. Representing the cities, San Jacinto has requested and will be taking proposals from consultants until October 22. By November 17, evaluation of bidders will finish and the resulting contract will be brought to the city council in December to begin working out expected changes.

The plan has not been without criticism and opposing voices have pointed out that the current contracts are cost effective, but there is no guarantee the system will stay that way. Making long-term improvements through smart decisions and logical evaluations such as these will lead to much better prospects and I believe a regional police force would enhance the county of Riverside for all of us.

 

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