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Local News

Sheriff’s Contract Deemed Most Efficient Option for Goleta to Fund Police

Consultant presents report to the City Council, concluding that the 'only real way' to cut costs would be to reduce staffing

The City of Goleta’s contract with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department for police services is the most efficient way for the city to fund public safety, consultants said Tuesday.

With rising operation costs, the City Council paid for Matrix Consulting Group to analyze the existing contract and possible alternatives, and heard the report at Tuesday’s meeting.

The report concluded that the Sheriff’s Department provides a good level of service to the city, and that it would most likely be too expensive to create a city police department.

Deputies are well-regarded by the community, have good numbers for traffic enforcement and an appropriate number of people for the city’s size, according to Greg Matthews, vice president of Matrix who is also a former police officer.

The group found that the force has a good amount of “proactive time” — time between responding to calls and writing reports when officers can do preventive patrol, field interviews, meet with business members and conduct traffic stops. With too much proactive time, there are most likely too many people; with too few, officers have a hard time answering calls quickly, backing each other up and having time to both respond to calls and finishing paperwork during their shifts, Matthews said.

The City of Goleta has contracted with the Sheriff’s Department for police services since it incorporated in 2002, but costs have been increasing even to maintain the same number of services. The City Council has struggled with the decision to cut back on deputies to balance the budget.

“The only real way you can change the cost of your contract other than negotiating internal terms and conditions within that contract is change the number of people you employ,” Matthews said.

Matrix considered the UC Santa Barbara Police Department, the Santa Barbara Police Department and an independent Goleta police department as alternatives to the current contract.

UCSB’s police can’t contract out without violating the Education Code, so that idea was thrown out right away.

Council members have asked if it’s feasible to create an independent department, but Matthews said it would cost about $1.2 million more per year to have a Goleta police force of 40 positions.

It’s unclear how much it would cost to have the Santa Barbara department deliver services under a contract — or whether the department would even consider it — but vague calculations still come in above the Sheriff’s Department contract, according to the consultant report.

Council members agreed with the gist of the report, but didn’t act Tuesday on the recommendations.

Matthews suggested eliminating the senior deputy positions — saving $175,000 annually — since there is already a sergeant posted for both shifts in the supervisorial position. He also suggested switching the shift schedule from 6 p.m to 6 a.m. to either 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. or 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., since 6 p.m. is one of the busiest call times.

Councilman Roger Aceves, a former senior deputy in Goleta before it was a city, said the city can’t do without the half-time senior deputies. He said they do more than just supervise patrol units, but if sergeants are called away, the city is left without a supervisor.

Undersheriff Jim Peterson agreed, telling the council that eliminating those positions would mean getting rid of 24/7 supervision.

“We’d be very concerned about that kind of reduction,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen at any given time.”

He said the department was reprehensive when it first heard about the review, but pleased by the results.

“We’re appropriately staffed and we have a good reputation in the community, which is incredibly important to us,” Peterson said. “Although we’re expensive, we know that we’re very good at what we do — and if you pay for a service you expect the best, and we think we provide that.”

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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