With the current economic climate affecting our cities, the recent suggestion that Downey evaluate having the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department provide the city's law enforcement services--replacing the Downey Police Department--is certainly understandable, as the larger agency can typically provide services less expensively.
However, the city's residents and their elected representatives must avoid embracing any comparison from a purely fiscal perspective without fully examining the benefits of having their own police agency.
The economics of providing law enforcement services to a community are not so much cost versus population as cost versus level of service. Although the service level includes many factors, response time (how long it takes police to respond to a citizen's call) is commonly cited as a principal indicator of agency performance. The latest statistics that I recall indicated that the Downey department's response times were faster that the sheriff's.
Moreover, local control ensures that the law enforcement agency--starting with the chief executive officer--is directly responsible for satisfying the local community's policing requirements as determined and evaluated by its citizens and their elected representatives.
Evaluating a change in law enforcement service providers is a complex and serious endeavor that must be comprehensive and objective, and not based just on saving money--particularly when the existing provider is performing superlatively.
Thus, the real long-term solution may not be changing agencies as much as "getting the most bang for the buck" from the existing one. As the Downey Police Department from the top down consists of very intelligent, capable and dedicated professionals we should look to them as a prime source of ideas to improve efficiency and control costs while maintaining or enhancing service levels.
STEVEN B. CLAR