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L.A. County cities seek to merge police forces to cut costs

Maywood, which is spearheading the effort with Bell, has requested federal funds for a three-month feasibility study.

February 28, 2010|By Ruben Vives

Citing a decline in revenues and an increase in the cost of law enforcement, several small cities in southeast Los Angeles County are considering a novel approach to policing their communities.

City officials in Maywood and Bell say they are examining the possibility of combining police departments as a way to reduce expenditures, and they welcome any nearby cities to join a new regional law enforcement agency.

Maywood officials, who are spearheading the idea, say they have requested $280,000 in federal funding to conduct a feasibility study of a multi-city police agency.

U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-East Los Angeles), whose district includes most of the southeast cities, is shepherding that request. However, her office said Maywood was among nearly 200 cities competing for consideration.

The three-month study would determine whether a police department merger could save the cities money by reducing administrative costs, salary and pension expenditures and liability insurance.

"Revenues are dwindling from the state, and safety costs are going up," said Angela Spaccia, Maywood's interim city manager. "If we can join services and reduce the costs, then we've helped both cities."

The study would also examine the potential costs of dismantling the police departments and hiring the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department as an alternative to a regional police agency.

"It wouldn't be responsible of us if we didn't look at all possibilities," Spaccia said.

But city officials say they would prefer to have their own regional police department.

Other cities have expressed interest, but none has committed to the idea yet, officials said.

Proponents of the plan want to include Cudahy, which does not have a police department and contracts with Maywood for police services.

But Cudahy officials have expressed skepticism, even as officials in Bell and Maywood have spoken publicly of including the city.

"They keep throwing our name out there and that we're in support of it, but we're not," said Cudahy City Manager George Perez. "It sounds like a good idea, but the process has to be done right."

Also, some officials have privately questioned the study's price tag, saying that $280,000 sounds like a lot.

A spokesman for the Bell and Maywood police associations said the organizations were reserving comment until more details were revealed.

However, a concern was the possible loss of jobs, said attorney Dieter Dammeier, general counsel for both unions.

Maywood officials said they didn't foresee job cuts in a department merger. Spaccia said the central focus of merging the police departments was to address the administrative costs.

"It's a cost-saving measure," Spaccia said.

Randy Narramore, interim city administrator for Montebello, agrees.

While serving as police chief for Huntington Park, he wrote his master's thesis on consolidating five police departments in the southeast.

(Montebello is not involved in the possible police merger.)

"As far as saving money, let's say you have five cities come together, you don't have . . . five of everything and you save money immediately that way," Narramore said.

"There's tremendous savings, there's cost savings to the public and you're able to perform better service for the public."

ruben.vives@latimes.com

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