Sonora, CA — The Sonora City Council will have further discussions on Monday about whether it would like to investigate the idea of consolidating its Police Department with the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office.
Leading up to next week’s meeting, Sheriff Jim Mele has sent a proposal to the city, with three different options. He says each would create a more “efficient and effective” way of delivering law enforcement services for both the city and his office. Mele says he prepared and sent the report at the request of City Administrator Tim Miller.
Mele says the three options, which have varying levels of staff, would save the city, annually, between $580-thousand to $965-thousand. They range from the city having one sergeant, a detective, and six officers, to having two sergeants, a detective and eight officers.
Under all three scenarios, a Police Chief would still remain under Sonora’s civic structure and work with city leaders to identify policing priorities. Sometimes the city and county may have different enforcement philosophies on issues like traffic enforcement, ticketing, etc. It would allow the city to maintain its own identity. In selecting a Police Chief, it would be limited to a current Police Department Lieutenant or any of the Sheriff’s Lieutenants. The city would keep its primary designated officers in the same SPD uniforms, patrol vehicles and would respond to same calls that they currently handle. There would no longer be a Lt. position with the Police Department, which would reduce costs. Dispatch services would be combined into the Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office would provide 24/7 supervision over all aspects outside the hours of the Police Chief and potentially Administrative Sergeants, which would also reduce the city’s bottom line. There could also be combined training and increased information sharing.
Speaking with Clarke Broadcasting, Mele stresses, “I feel very strongly that the City of Sonora has an excellent police department and they have some excellent men and women that work for them. But I think this is an opportunity, with Chief Stinson’s retirement, to look at if this is a viable option.”
At Monday’s meeting the Sonora City Council will discuss whether they want to further evaluate the Sheriff’s proposal. Other options for the city include initiating a study on the pros and cons of consolidation, conducting a survey among the community, or simply stating that they have no interest in consolidating with the county.
Monday’s meeting starts at 5pm at Sonora City Hall.