When Governor VanNorden was elected two years ago, she promised reform and creative ways of saving taxpayers money. In a binding ballot referendum special election held throughout the state voters overwhelmingly approved the creation of county police forces to replace those of villages, hamlets, towns, townships and other municipalities.
The measure was only rejected in the communities of Summit Heights and Hamilton Township, both of which will retain their own forces. Summit Heights mayor Samuel Tyler told channel 8, â€œWe have one of the best-trained and highest-paid forces in the country. Our citizens feel protected and felt that the plan would reduce the highest citizen to officer ratio in the country. We will cooperate with the new county police. If at some time in the future our citizens want our force to merge we will merge. We hope that this is not a step towards annexation by the city.â€ Hamilton Township mayor Rex Hamilton was out of the country and unavailable for comment.
In effect, the small departments will be merged, creating one large department and the county sheriffâ€™s department will also be folded in throughout the state. The county Parks Commission Police and County Highway Patrol will also be merged into the new force. The economies of scale are expected to increase police services without increasing taxes.
The city’s police force will not be affected by the measure, as it is over the merger limits. However, the new county officers will have jurisdiction in the city and take over the courthouse and jail security duties from the Sheriff’s Department when the merger takes place on January 1, 2009. Additionally, county officers will be able to join city officers as needed for things such as special events and increased patrols. City officers will also have reciprocal jurisdiction with the county along with radio and dispatch interoperability. The Port Commission Police will also remain a separate agency, as it operates over several counties, but would also get tied into the radio and dispatch systems of the counties it operates in.
Mayor Wilders praised the move during remarks at the City Under-14 Stickball Championship in Harrison Park, â€œThis is win-win situation for both the city and region. It also will increase the safety of everyone in both the city and county. The best part of the plan is that our officers will have the same salary as those of every other officer in the state, except for those two Richie Rich enclaves with money to burn. That should reduce the number of officers heading out to the suburbs for higher pay. â€
In a press release, City Patrol Officers Benevolent Association president Kevin Walsh stated, â€œOur members thank the governor for this. We had our doubts when she proposed the mergers, but this truly benefits not only our members but the entire community. â€
The fall general election will have a similar referendum, this time on creating county fire departments. Again, the City fire department will not be subject to a merger.
– Hoyt Schermerhorn
A “Richie Rich” Summit Heights Police Vehicle