A few weeks ago, I mentioned I would discuss our Police department in detail. This week’s article is both a little longer than normal and extremely important, so please take a little time to read, and think through some of the information.
As residents of the City of Lake Lotawana, you deserve the following in your Police services:
1. A policing model that provides 24 x 7 coverage; access to the latest technology; and the ability to provide extensive training.
2. A police strategy that can quickly respond to all situations, both simple and complex.
3. Enough personnel to absorb turnover, vacation, sickness, or injury without service disruption.
4. An administration or documentation process that complies with all Missouri State Laws, Jackson County requirements, and our Municipal codes and laws.
5. A policing system that is sustainable beyond any Mayor, City Administrator, or Board of Aldermen.
One thing I have learned over the last eight years is that all of our past administrations, both staff and elected officials were attempting to provide a full-service police department. Advances in technology, changes in training methods, meeting legislative requirements, the ability to recruit and retain full time police officers, make operating a full-service police department, for a City our size, more challenging every year. In the last few years, many things have changed in the policing environment. For the State of Missouri, many of these regulations can be traced back to the events which occurred in Ferguson, Missouri. In light of some of the occurrences in the St. Louis area, some of these were probably warranted. These changes have put pressure on all police agencies but have placed additional pressure on small jurisdictions, because of our size to comply, train, update, and govern.
Earlier this year, the Board of Aldermen approved hiring our current Police Chief, Randy Wilson, to stabilize the force and look for practical, long-term policing solutions. The Board asked Leslee and the Chief to consider all possibilities. These ranged from rebuilding a police team in-house, to completely outsourcing to Jackson County, to cost sharing with a local municipality with a mature police department. Chief Wilson completed a diligent and thorough situation analysis for the Board of Aldermen late last summer. The Board of Aldermen then asked Leslee and I to begin cursory conversations with both Jackson County and surrounding communities to determine if any of those organizations would be interested in a cost-sharing model.
Next, we pulled data from past City budgets to determine what was annually spent on the Police Department. In 2003, nearly 70% of the city’s General Fund budget was spent on policing. That percentage has gradually decreased over the years as our annual budget has increased. For the last five years, the City has programmed about 58% of the annual budget to the Police Department. This is what the Board used as a cost framework for working with Jackson County or another municipality.
I completely understand that police services are one of the community pillars. What services could an existing, mature police department offer the residents of Lake Lotawana, that we may struggle to offer on our own?
1) Detective and investigative services
2) Specialized response teams
3) Larger police force that ensures consistent 24 x 7 coverage
4) Deeper experience responding to serious situations
5) Enhanced reporting and crime trend analysis
6) Increased training
7) Technology, including mobile data terminals
8) Accreditation through CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies)
9) Equipment and vehicles
10) Reduced overhead costs
11) Broader risk profile for insurance purposes
To be perfectly honest, cost-sharing with a larger organization makes financial sense. The City would have access to all the benefits of a full service police department, with a cost structure we can afford and is predictable.
So, what about Lotawana culture? Our essence? We all agree that Lake Lotawana is a special place. How do we maintain our unique community, while increasing and expanding the service levels?
This is where the Board of Aldermen asked us to focus as we continue discussions.
On Tuesday, January 3, 2017 we officially announced that we are in serious discussions with the City of Blue Springs, Missouri to establish a cost-sharing police services relationship.
I know many of you probably have a great number of questions for how this will work.
What will happen to our current team members?
Would we have police cars that say Lake Lotawana?
Will our partner have a station close to Lake Lotawana?
Would we maintain a Lake Lotawana Municipal Court, City Prosecutor and Municipal Judge?
Would we have the ability to set the policing strategy for our community?
To answer those questions, the City will be hosting an Open House on Tuesday, January 17th, before the Board of Aldermen meeting, from 5-7 pm. I will also have open office hours every Tuesday morning from 8 to 10 AM to answer questions. You can always send me an email. We may not have all of the answers yet. We have a few months to work through the details of the relationship. We will also do our best to keep our website updated with new information as it becomes available. I would anticipate our website will have Frequently Asked Questions and other important information as the process develops.
If all goes well, we anticipate having the first reading of a contract between our two cities at our Board of Alderman Work Session on February 7th, and a final reading for the contract at the regular Board of Alderman meeting on February 20th.
If you have an interest in learning more, please drop me a note, stop by the Open House, attend one of the February Board meetings, or stop in during my office hours.
As always, if you have a topic you would like me to discuss, please drop me a note.
Scott Miles, Mayor
City of Lake Lotawana