Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach city officials move ahead with police consolidation

Years after it was first discussed, Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach officials are moving closer to a goal that some say could improve public safety services in both cities.

Last week, the Grover Beach City Council unanimously directed its staff to start talks with Arroyo Grande on consolidating police and dispatch services.

If the plan moves ahead, the two cities could save some money; create a larger, more stable workforce to pull from; and give employees more training and career advancement opportunities, officials said.

But the details still must be fleshed out and revisited by each city council.

“It’s a big decision, a big move, and it would be a big change for the communities,” said Grover Beach police Chief Jim Copsey, “but both (Arroyo Grande Chief Steve) Annibali and I think it’s going to be a positive change.”

However, he added, “If it turns out after all of the details are placed on the table that it’s not right for either city, it won’t move forward.”

A joint department would include 39 sworn officers and 13 full-time personnel, including two motorcycle units, two canine units and two dispatchers working around the clock. Officers would oversee a combined seven square miles with about 30,000 residents.

Annibali previously estimated that consolidation could save the two cities $850,000 to $1.1 million. However, Grover Beach police have already faced deep pay cuts and have two vacant officer positions, so the savings would be reduced if the cuts remained in place.

The Grover Beach Police Officers Association told the council it favors the proposal, noting that a merged operation would improve coordinated response to disasters and major crimes.

The union also suggests that such a merger would enable officers to respond to calls faster, and that the cities could boost enforcement in areas such as traffic.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.