Coastal Voices: Sheriff, police should always be separated

Submitted

These are tough economic times for California and the United States. The unemployment rate is 9.1 percent for America, 12.4 percent for California, and 14.2 percent for Del Norte County.

Taxes are down because income is down. Budgets are strained. This country is in a recession. Del Norte County is no exception to the dwindling budget syndrome. The city of Crescent City anticipates at $250,000 deficit in its budget commencing July 1, 2012.

A few weeks back Sheriff Dean Wilson spoke about his role as the county's top cop in the Sept. 3 Triplicate article "Tea Party Sheriff: Dean Wilson is filling two high-profile roles in county." I listen very carefully when the sheriff speaks. He has his pulse on the community and when he comments, I pay attention.

Sheriff Wilson referred to the possibility that a merging of law

enforcement agencies in Del Norte County would cut significant

duplicative services to the community and save the taxpayers money.

Formerly, I lived in the medium-sized city of Santa Clarita, about

180,000, which contracted both its fire and law enforcement to Los

Angeles County, the Los Angeles County Fire Department and the Los

Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

I ask the question; should the Crescent City Police Department merge

with the Del Norte County Sheriff's Office in an effort to save money?

As Sheriff Wilson correctly points out, money is not the main issue

here. Crescent City's identity has been forged over 150 years. Merging

services would be emotionally costly to the city. Though I do believe

the community was and is currently well served by our highly trained

deputies and police officers, I am pleased there is a boundary

separating the city from the county.

Police Chief Doug Plack is an appointed public employee and serves at

the pleasure of the Crescent City Council and City Manager Eugene

Palazzo. The city's input on the Police Department is weighty. It

should be. In many ways, the Crescent City Police Department is the face

of the community. Losing that identity is not in Crescent City's best

interest.

Sheriff Wilson is an elected public official. He serves a four-ear

term and can be re-elected to his "job" by Del Norte County voters.

Any possible merger would also involve absorbing additional

liability. Regrettably, we live in a very litigious society. It is more

than common that those arrested often go the way of a lawsuit to

exonerate themselves. Sad, but true, many in the community sue.

Defending even frivolous lawsuits is costly; none one can deny that.

I would hope that both departments could find common ground in

developing a combined Crescent City/Del Norte County crime lab.

Currently, the state handles all lab work. Wouldn't it be realistic to

keep as much law enforcement data locally compared to shipping it off to

Sacramento?

Additionally, all Del Norte County law enforcement agencies meet

monthly to discuss mutual issues of concern. The California Highway

Patrol, the Del Norte County Sheriff's Office, the Yurok Tribal Police

and the Crescent City Police Department all meet officially in group

called LEADN: Law Enforcement Administrators of Del Norte County.

My respect for both departments is profound.

The city of Crescent City and Del Norte County will have to find new

avenues of income to supplant projected anticipated deficits.

It's an idea worth looking into when there is no other option. I say

keep the departments separate and keep both healthy and strong. After

all, it's our safety that is at risk.

Roger Gitlin of Crescent City is a retired teacher and member of the Del Norte County Tea Party.

14010096
The Del Norte Triplicate
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