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UPDATED Consultant: APD should hand off animal shelter, jail

Submitted by on 1, June 2, 2009 – 6:00 amNo Comment

Updated 10:33 p.m. Tuesday, June 2

A just-released consultant’s report suggests the Alameda Police Department consider shuttering its jail and contracting with a non-profit to operate its animal shelter in an effort to save money. But its authors stopped short of recommending further staff cuts.

Both options had been listed as potential cost-savings measures in an October 2008 memo from Police Chief Walter Tibbet to then-City Manager Debra Kurita submitted to help the city make needed mid-year budget cuts.

Tibbet, who said he was glad the consultants recognized the quality of Alameda’s police services, said he will consider the recommendations.

“If I had my druthers, I wouldn’t make those cuts. I think we’re very well served,” Tibbet said. “But given the economic circumstances that we find ourselves in, we have to make reductions.”

He said the department has looked at models for management of the animal shelter. (Closing the jail, he said, would add costs.)

Another recommendation to cut a lieutenant and two sergeants has already been followed.

The report from ICMA Consulting Services, which did a similar review of the city’s fire department, says the department is well-managed and operated, including the services that it says the department should hand off to someone else. And it says the department has few opportunities to reduce costs without harming service. From the report:

The on-site visit, a review of departmental policies and procedures, and interviews with individual officers, members of police management, and elected officials led us to conclude that there is a limited opportunity to reduce some costs within the police department and that there are no significant savings to be had without seriously affecting the current performance of the agency.

Still, the report’s authors say the department should consider shuttering its jail, which costs $800,000 to operate, and handing off responsibility for the city’s animal shelter, which costs $649,000 to run and is supervised by the lieutenant in charge of the department’s investigations division, who the report says should be focused on that job.

The report also recommends a reshuffling of the department’s investigations division that would include cutting a lieutenant’s position and two sergeants. It suggests cutting the sergeant in charge of the department’s narcotics division, at a savings of $194,707, and the sergeant in charge of the identification unit, as well as the department’s lieutenant in charge of operations, for a savings of $255,525. Sergeants in charge of narcotics and the department’s juvenile division have already been cut, as has a lieutenant from operations.

The department had 17 sergeants, which the report’s authors said was unusual for a department of Alameda’s size. APD had 99 sworn officers, including management, and 44 civilian staff, before cuts were made as part of earlier, citywide layoffs.

The report also suggests switching officers from 10-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts, which it says would give the department’s leaders better flexibility in assigning work and would mean fewer days of work for officers (many of whom, according to the report, face long commutes to get here). Tibbet said that is not being considered.

Its authors also suggest the department consider hiring a deputy chief and upgrading its communications equipment when the economy turns around and there’s money available.

Alameda Police Sgt. Joe McNiff, who heads the department’s police officers association, said he was heartened by the glowing review the report’s authors gave the department.

He said that while he’s not thrilled about the loss of promotional opportunities for the department’s officers, he understands the financial position the city is in and he’s hopeful the department can regain some of the positions it has lost when the economy turns around.

“We understand that with the city going through the financial mess they’re going through right now, we are trying to help them work through it the best that we can,” McNiff said.

Tibbet’s October budget cut memo to Kurita suggested that city leaders consider handing off the animal shelter to an outside entity but that they hold off on closing the jail. Tibbet’s memo also suggested that the city consider cutting the lieutenant’s position and shuttering the department’s narcotics division but that it should hold off on eliminating its identification unit, which he said would put more work on patrol officers. It also contemplated shifting officers’ schedules.

The operational report is preceded by about 45 pages of data laying out the number of calls the department got between July 2007 and June 2008 (about 50,000) and what type of calls it responded to (about 30 percent were traffic calls, 30 percent were for suspicious incidents, 15 percent investigations and 12 percent for crimes).

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