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Orange County Focus

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO : City Weighs Hiring Full-Time Chief

September 02, 1993|LEN HALL

For the first time, San Juan Capistrano is considering hiring a police chief to focus solely on the city and oversee an increasing demand for local law enforcement services.

Under the deal offered by the Orange County Sheriff's Department, which acts as San Juan Capistrano's police force, the city would pay $116,704 a year for a department lieutenant to serve as the chief, said City Manager George Scarborough. The City Council is scheduled to vote on hiring a chief at its next meeting, Sept. 7.

Scarborough, who is recommending that the city hire a full-time chief, said it is important to increase the "police presence in the community."

"It is not necessarily that crime is going up in the city, but we think it is important to continue increasing our police service commitment to the community," Scarborough said. "Hiring a full-time police chief is consistent with that decision."

For the past four years, ever since Dana Point became a city, San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point have shared Sheriff's Department Lt. Dan Martini, who acted as police chief for both cities. Now, San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point each pay $58,352 a year for Martini's services.

But Dana Point recently opted to strike out alone and hire its own lieutenant from the Sheriff's Department to act as its police chief for the same $116,704 cost, a move that has left San Juan Capistrano with few options, Scarborough said. The only other South County cities that now share a lieutenant--Laguna Hills and Lake Forest--are too far away to include in a sharing agreement, he said.

"The Dana Point decision is really driving this," Scarborough said. "That has left us with an option of no lieutenant or a full-time lieutenant. We believe that the administrative control a chief offers us is a very important and cost-effective element to our overall police services."

City Councilman Jeff Vasquez said he would rather hire more patrol officers than a chief.

The city now pays $2.4 million a year to the Sheriff's Department for police services for the fiscal year 1993-94. The annual costs are up $196,000 from last year, although most of the increase--$166,000--stems from a new special enforcement unit that acts as a community liaison officer, according to Cynthia Pendleton, the city's director of finance.

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