MOORLACH UPDATE — Public Safety Consolidation — April 25, 2011

On Good Friday, in my MOORLACH UPDATE, we witnessed a determined recalcitrance to the idea of a super-city.  Understood, but when you are provided with a proposal that may save your constituents money, should you continue that rigidity?  You have to admire the staff leadership for exploring and reviewing the alternative of merging police departments, which is the topic of the Los Alamitos-Seal Beach Patch article below.  This process is not a new one.  Cities like Brea and Yorba Linda, have explored this option and followed through.  Other cities recently came very close to merging police departments, only to hit an impasse when the discussion focused on which one of the two or three chiefs would be the new police chief and which chiefs would have to step down.

I believe good leadership dictates that decisions are made after all of the facts have been considered.  This year is shaping up as one to gather and review all of the facts and then make the best decisions for all of the residents involved.  Stay tuned.  I wish the six councilmembers well in their deliberations this evening.

BONUS:  A photo, courtesy of Newport Beach Patch, of the John Wayne Airport CUP dedication.  I tour the construction with JWA staff about once every six weeks.  In order to do so, I must wear steel-toed boots, a hard hat, and a safety vest.  For the dedication ceremony, I decided to wear my Red Wing boots.  For some reason, the photo makes them look very large.

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Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach speaks during the dedication of the Central Utility Plant at John Wayne Airport. Credit: Walt Weis

Seal Beach, Los Alamitos and Cypress to Talk Police Merger

Officials from the three cities will meet Monday to discuss sharing services, including police.

By Paige Austin

City leaders from Seal Beach, Los Alamitos and Cypress will gather next week to discuss ways to save money by combining city services, including police.

The meeting reflects the economic hardships that all three cities face as well as an alternative to County Supervisor John Moorlach’s push to merge western Orange County’s little cities into one “supercity,” including Seal Beach, Los Alamitos and Rossmoor. However, any effort to merge police departments is likely to meet considerable resistance, and Monday’s closed-door meeting of city officials has ruffled feathers.

“They want to have a combined police department. It’s not going to happen,” said Seal Beach Mayor Mike Levitt. “We like having our own police department, and I am pretty sure we are going to continue to have it. At this point, I don’t think the citizens of Seal Beach would support it. I could just see them coming up the hill with pitchforks.”

At Monday’s Seal Beach City Council meeting, the council is poised to approve a letter to be sent to the Orange County Board of Supervisors officially opposing the supercity concept. Merging police departments would create a de facto supercity, added Levitt.

Levitt said he will attend Monday’s meeting and has discussed the matter with acting City Manager Jill Ingram. Seal Beach’s participation in the meeting is likely to be misinterpreted by many, he added.

“I am sure some people will get the wrong idea that if we are listening to this, we must be interested. We’re not,” he said. “Now we have a three-minute-or-less response time when someone calls 911. That wouldn’t be the case if our police were in Los Alamitos investigating something there.”

Los Alamitos City Manager Jeff Stewart cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the meeting.

“It’s all very exploratory at this point,” said Stewart. “We love our police department.”

The meeting is designed to give the three communities an opportunity to discuss ways to “share efficiencies,” eliminate duplicate services and save money without sacrificing service, he said. Shared services could extend to policing, but it is too early in the process to speculate, he added.

Officials from the three cities have long discussed ways to save money and work together, said Stewart. Los Alamitos and Seal Beach already share recreational resources and police dispatch. The West Cities Police Communications Center serves Seal Beach, Los Alamitos and Cypress, as does the West County SWAT Team.

In the budget approved last year, Los Alamitos spent $4.94 million, or 42 percent of its operating budget, for police services. In the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, Seal Beach has allocated nearly $9 million, or 32 percent of its budget, for police services.

This is not the first time of late that there has been talk of altering the makeup of the Los Alamitos Police Department.

In the interest of cost savings, Moorlach has suggested that Rossmoor consider eliminating its contract with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to contract with the Los Alamitos Police Department or vice versa.

Monday’s meeting is not open to the public. Only two city council members from each city can attend without violating the Brown Act, an open-meeting law.

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