East Palo Alto may consider contracting sheriff

City looking at proposal to outsource police services to county sheriff

A potential consideration to outsource police services in East Palo Alto to the San Mateo County Sheriff has a council member concerned for the stability of law enforcement in the city.

City Council member Ruben Abrica made a formal request to City Manager Magda Gonzalez and Assistant City Manager Barbara Powell on Jan. 21 asking for confirmation regarding rumors that the manager's office is considering the switch. He has not yet received a written response, but Assistant City Manager Barbara Powell confirmed the city manager's office is looking into outsourcing police services. A staff report will be presented Feb. 4 at the city council meeting.

"If Council asks staff to collect information, we will do so and we will then bring the information back to the Council at a subsequent meeting, at which time they will decide if they want to continue to explore options for the provision of Public Safety Services," Powell wrote in an email to the Weekly.

Abrica said he is concerned that a switch would destabilize progress the city has made in controlling crime. The city is currently searching for a new police chief after the departure of longtime chief Ronald Davis.

Under Davis, the city saw a dramatic decrease in murders, although violent crimes were not completely eliminated. Davis whipped a chaotic department into shape after a San Mateo grand jury issued a scathing report about its practices, which included the need to properly train officers.

Davis held officers accountable for inappropriate actions, and he instituted "community policing" strategies to improve the department's relationship with residents. Several partnerships with other law enforcement agencies, the faith community and social services agencies resulted in a preemptive approach that met with gang members to tamp down violence when shootings began to rise.

Capt. Federico Rocha became interim chief, but he was replaced by City Manager Magda Gonzalez on Jan. 21 after approaching the maximum number of annual hours allowable for a retiree to work for the city, as regulated by the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), Gonzalez said. Retired public employees can only work 960 hours per year from June 30 to July 1. He was replaced by former San Bruno police chief Lee Violett as interim chief.

Abrica said he's concerned about the city manager's office's lack of communication with the council regarding contracting out police work.

"My main concern is that before top management does anything in this area, the council needs to give guidance. Police department employees need to be heard as well.

"This is not the same as contracting out cleaning of the windows. The police department is the biggest part of our expenses. These kinds of changes start to create a certain instability," he said.

From the very start of the city's incorporation movement in the early 1980s, Abrica, who was involved in the movement, said having a local accounting of police services was a central concern.

"This is no reflection on the Sheriff's Office," he said. He added he has heard a general anxiety among residents about what is going on with the police department.

"In the past five years, there has been a general improvement and more responsiveness from the police department. It's a good place to be, and we need to build on that, Anything that can jeopardize the progress we've made is not acceptable. This is a very serious and sensitive issue, and we need to pay attention to it," he said.

The city manager's office has declined further comment.


Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Question
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 31, 2014 at 10:12 am

From having lived in the community in the past it seems the department is still not able to sustain itself financially. The city relies on federal and state grants to sustain itself, rather then revenue. The department does not have an adequately equipped building, and lacks proper staffing and leadership. Do I need to continue?

Like this comment
Posted by PAPD
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 31, 2014 at 11:10 am

EPAPD should contract with PAPD. They are a professional organization that can address a lot of the crime problems while still engaging the community.

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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 31, 2014 at 11:40 am

San Carlos has done this and it seems to be working very well.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

CPD - as usual, you have a good point. But we have very, very good reasons to be concerned about this potential change. It's important to note, also, that the City Manager is pissing off a lot of people, including the City Council, and she doesn't live in E. Palo Alto. That's a classic conflict with city management vs. city council and residents that happens many places.

[Portion removed.]

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Posted by EPA Mom
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2014 at 6:39 pm

Once again the penchant for hiring only non-EPA residents for key positions in government is coming back to bite us. EPA is completely different from surrounding suburbs. It would take outsiders a long time to get up to speed. The cost of this would be many young lives.
This is the second time the mayor has expressed his frustration with the City Manager through the press. What is the established process for complaints about the City Manager? Why did they hire this woman anyway, when so many longtime EPA residents could have done better and kept the income in the community?

2 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2014 at 6:42 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

And again, why would we want to be under the aegis of two law enforcement officials who were busted for being at a bordello? [Portion removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Frank
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2014 at 7:14 pm

Back to being an unincorporated city of San Mateo County with the Sheriff's Office being responsible for law enforcement. That's where EPA started.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2014 at 7:38 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

Web Link

Web Link

[Portion removed.]

E. Palo Alto does NOT need to be under the command of people like Munks, nor subject to racial profiling, as has been a problem in PAPD.

And again, why would we want to be under the aegis of two law enforcement officials who were busted for being at a bordello? [Portion removed] so between that and what the racial profiling chief did, we wouldn't necessarily be in better hands w/PAPD OR the S.O.

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Posted by WhiteMaskedMen
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 1, 2014 at 2:00 pm

EPAPD officers are useless anyways. They don't like outside help, they're poorly trained, if ask 10 EPA cops the same question you'll receive 10 different answers. I didn't know why a city is fight to keep a department that's broken that can't be fixed. The department doesn't even have enough recourse to effectively patrol the city and respond to calls in a timely manner. My hats are off to the city manager making the difficult since decisions. On a side note it shouldn't matter whether the city manager is male or female or is a resident. It's all about qualifications and experience.

Like this comment
Posted by Tina
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2014 at 3:11 am

EPA's city manager is the best one yet! She has done a great job bringing issues forward to the council. She is smart and very professional. Abrica is not the Mayor and continues to disrespect the city manager for his own personal reseaons. He must stop! He is the ONLY council member who can't seem to figure out HIS problems with the city manager.

Like this comment
Posted by Truth
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2014 at 3:20 am

The idea to look at police services came from the majority of the council. Not the city manager. Tuesday the council will decide publicly if this is something they want to look further at.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe Smith
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Regarding losing control of your police department. Firing a police chief is a lot harder than going to the Sheriff and telling him you want to change the lieutenant in charge of the East Palo Alto Bureau. One phone call from the City Manager and it's done. Same process works if you're having a problem a deputy working EPA, City manager calls the bureau lieutenant and the person will be removed.

East Palo Alto would gain control of the people policing the streets, not lose it.

Maybe someone should look into the the last time EPA PD actually solved a homicide....Hmmm

You want to see a true reduction in crime, and not someone playing with the numbers, bring in the Sheriff.

The city will save money and be safer. Kind of a no brainer.

Like this comment
Posted by Aquamarine
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 2, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Joe - good points in general. But considering who is the current sheriff and his own peccadillo, his reputation has been permanently tarnished by his own criminal behavior, as has the undersheriff. He's also had some rather eyebrow-raising behavior from his own deputies.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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