Dwight Worden | City Council Member
Pros and Cons: In an effort to stimulate thought and debate, here is a summary of the developing arguments pro and con on a Del Mar PD. They don’t cover everything, but they do summarize what I have gleaned are the major points on both sides that seem to have some merit. Neither the pro nor the con position is “right” or “wrong.”
• All the reports show that a DMPD can be cost competitive while providing a better level of service than what we get from the Sheriff. For about the same cost as Del Mar pays the Sheriff for one full time deputy, a DMPD could provide two full time deputies. This conclusion is a reflection of the high, and ever escalating, cost for a relatively modest level of service from the Sheriff.
• A DMPD could provide community based service that the large and bureaucratic Sheriff department cannot. With the Sheriff, Del Mar is a small fish in a big pond. Our own PD would be like our fire and lifeguard departments, focused on our needs. A DMPD would develop a deep understanding of Del Mar, responding quickly to community calls in a way that the Sheriff cannot. With our own PD Del Mar would be the only fish in the pond.
• Del Mar would continue to receive key services at no additional cost from the Sheriff such as SWAT, the crime lab, Astria helicopter, jail and booking services, bomb squad, etc., as well as mutual aid when needed. Del Mar would be able to handle any eventuality that might occur.
• Combining our existing parking enforcement and ranger programs into a new DMPD would provide better, more cost effective, service across a range of Del Mar needs from nuisance prevention (noise complaints, rowdy bar patrons, barking dogs, etc.), to community policing (facilitating neighborhood watch, home inspections, door checks on local businesses, neighborhood patrols by bike or car, responding to alarms, etc.) to addressing traffic and crime issues.
• Del Mar would decide how its police would be deployed and what the priorities would be, not the distant and bureaucratic Sheriff command structure, where the Captain responsible for Del Mar changes on a nearly annual basis.
• The reports and studies document that liability, pension, labor, finding a site, start up costs, and other issues can all be handled cost effectively and safely.
• Augmenting the current Sheriff’s level of service would be expensive and still leave us that small fish in a big pond.
• If a Del Marian has a problem on the beach and calls the Del Mar lifeguards, chances are they know the caller. They pick up the phone on 3 or so rings, and provide great service. Why shouldn’t we expect the same from police services? We don’t get that from the Sheriff where calls often get put on hold, and wait 45 minutes for a field response. The Sheriff deputies are rarely seen in town as they have duties elsewhere and they turn over often. A local PD can bring the kind of service we want at a competitive cost.
Bottom line PRO: If you want better service at a competitive cost, a DMPD makes great sense. It’s been studied in detail by consultants, by the city finance committee, and by outside sources. Sure, it would reflect a big change, but that would be change for the better.
• A DMPD would likely be the largest department in the city - bigger than the Planning Department, Lifeguard, or fire service - bringing bureaucratic issues we will regret. This idea that little Del Mar can support and manage a police department runs counter to our small town experience.
• Sticking with the Sheriff is a known proposition. It has worked for Del Mar for decades. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
• Creating our own PD brings unknown risks. It will change city management as it takes on an oversight role for a large, new department. It may well bring labor, pension, insurance, and liability issues that are now all handled by the Sheriff. Why would Del Mar want to take on those risks and responsibilities?
• If your vision for Del Mar is a quiet, residential community with a small city government tending to the basics, then sticking with the Sheriff is the way to go.
• Finding a place to house a DMPD will be difficult and expensive. Putting it in City Hall will drive neighbors crazy. Buying and building in Del Mar is very expensive. Renting will incur ongoing costs indefinitely. The Sheriff takes care of all this for us--why change that?
• Even if a DMPD is cost competitive (a claim that needs further vetting), abandoning the Sheriff to set up our own PD is a risky gamble that is unnecessary. We contract for many other services. Contracting with the Sheriff has worked for decades and can continue to work.
Bottom Line CON: Del Mar is a terrific place. Our crime rates are low. We’re doing fine with the current level of Sheriff service. If we want more, let’s augment Sheriff services. It’s worth the extra cost and less risky than striking out into the unknown by creating our own PD.