CASCADE - Cascade could see some major changes to how the city is policed after a recent cost analysis report recommended the city either downsize the department or contract out of the Valley County Sheriff’s Office.
No decisions have been made. The city council is just exploring the most cost-effective ways to spend taxpayer money.
"If the notion is going around that we're doing away with the police department that is not what we're doing,” Cascade City Council President Judith Nissula said. “We're merely looking at budget dollars.”
The chief of police retired earlier this year so city council thought it was a good time to analyze the department as they look at the 2018 budget, Nissula said.
Former Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney, who is now a law enforcement consultant, put together a cost analysis report. The report found for Cascade to have a police department the cost per resident is $469.03, which is about twice as much as cities similar in size.
"A lot of the dollars that our city residents pay [from property tax allocation] about 48 percent of it goes to the police department, " Nissula said.
Meaning that’s money that can’t be used elsewhere.
"Maybe they [taxpayers] want more streets paved, maybe they want bigger parks, better parks. We are there to get their information,” Nissula said.
In his report, Raney looked at things like 911 calls the department receives, population size of Cascade, number of officers and scheduling. He took that data and compared it to other areas like Cascade and came up with some recommendations for the city.
“It's important to remember they are just recommendations and that quite possibly we might not do anything different than we're already doing,” Nissula said.
One of the recommendations is lowering personnel costs of the current department. Until the police chief retired, the department was operating with four full-time officers and three part-time officers. Currently, they only have three full-time positions filled. The recommendation is to bring it down to two full-time positions and one part-time.
"I really think that's kind of a low number,” interim Police Chief Eric Littlejohn said. “We have to deal with shifts when someone calls off sick, mandatory training. We have to cover those shifts."
The other recommendation would be eliminating the current city police department and contracting police services through Valley County.
"We would want officers located in, not necessarily living in Cascade, but be assigned to the Cascade area all of the time,” Nissula said. “So if there were [an] extreme emergency in the upper part of the county, that we would still have a police presence here in town.”
But Littlejohn is concerned about the quality. He said his officers go above and beyond for the community. He said they do more than just respond to 911 calls.
“Our officers here, I mean they love Cascade,” he said. “We spend all of our time here and we are part of the community. When we’re off duty, on duty we're part of this community. And you know, we all love it.”
A decision isn't expected to be made for a couple months. Nissula said the city council wants to hear from the tax payers because it’s their money.
“If we get overwhelming support where people feel that is what they want [having a police department] certainly we are at the service of their pleasure,” she said. “We're just merely trying to do our fiscal responsibly."
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