We’ve heard it discussed at Morenci council meetings over the years and at Fayette council meetings, as well. It’s an issue that undoubtedly comes up in many, many small towns. It’s the question of a local police department vs. coverage through the county sheriff’s department.
Police coverage is by far the most expensive item in a community’s budget, and that’s certainly no complaint. It costs a lot of money to maintain a quality department with adequate staffing and equipment.
Every so often, when finances get really tight, someone will suggest the possibility of replacing or supplementing local coverage with county sheriff deputies. The popular opinion is always that local is better. People feel more comfortable knowing there are officers in town, and talk of enlisting county help soon falls by the wayside.
We’re not suggesting that either Morenci or Fayette abandon its local departments, but we think it’s worthy of noting what was done in Homer, Mich.
The village council voted a year ago to disband the local department in favor of coverage from the sheriff’s department. After that first year, both the village and sheriff’s department are pleased with the results.
The sheriff credits a smooth transition partly due to the hiring of two former Homer officers. The village administrator said he was skeptical at first, but now he’s delighted with the coverage and he’s hearing no complaints.
The village is receiving the same coverage as before—an average of about 18 hours a day—and saving $30,000.
The situation in Homer might be different enough that it wouldn’t work the same for Morenci or Fayette, but it’s interesting to note its success elsewhere. The topic is sure to arise again in the future, and when it does, there’s one community that can be contacted to see if it’s a good model to follow.