The following article was acquired from the Antelope Valley Press website and was written by Allison Gatlin.
PALMDALE — The City of Palmdale will investigate potential means for ensuring and improving public safety outside of its contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department under a consulting contract approved by the City Council on Jan. 10.
Under the nearly $179,000, six-month contract, Citygate Associates will analyze the city’s current public safety services and programs to determine if the current model is sustainable, if modifications should be considered and additional approaches for the city to consider, according to the staff report.
The council requested the study last year in response to concerns over the rising costs of the city’s contract with the Sheriff’s department, coupled with a shortage of sworn personnel and response times to non-emergency calls.
Since 2013, Palmdale’s population has increased 6%, to 165,917, while the sheriff’s department contract has grown by 58%, to this year’s $31.8 million, according to the staff report.
This cost growth has led city officials to fear that continuing increases will be cost prohibitive, leading to the search for alternative approaches.
“I think this is important as we try to reconfigure law enforcement with the rising costs,” Mayor Austin Bishop said.
The study not only will look at the existing contract with the sheriff’s department, but also will provide “a look forward at different possibilities to reimagine policing within the city of Palmdale,” Councilmember Eric Ohlsen said.
The city has decided to undertaken the study not because officials are looking to replace the sheriff’s department, but to come up with ways to support its work, fill in gaps where needed and “to make sure that the city doesn’t go broke in the process,” he said.
Councilmember Andrea Alarcón questioned how extensive the outreach effort would be to gather community input on existing services and future needs.
“When it comes to re-envisioning law enforcement in the city of Palmdale, I think it’s critical to get in-person feedback from all sectors of our community,” she said. “I did not see that in the scope of work in the contract.”
Director of Neighborhood Services Sofia Reyes said city staff is looking at various means of involving the community in providing input.
Alarcón also questioned whether the Department of Justice consent decree that applies to the sheriff’s department in the Antelope Valley will be considered during the firm’s analysis.
That will be discussed during the initial meetings with the consultants, when they incorporate more detail into the study, Reyes said.