Morro Bay to discuss plan to outsource police services

Morro Bay is seeking the public’s input on a possible plan to contract out police services to the Sheriff’s Office.
Morro Bay is seeking the public’s input on a possible plan to contract out police services to the Sheriff’s Office. The Tribune

Morro Bay officials are exploring a possible plan to contract police services out to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office.

If the city does decide to outsource law enforcement services, Morro Bay would be the only city in the county without its own police department.

City Manager David Buckingham on Monday released a public memo detailing the City Council’s decision to add the issue to its Aug. 9 agenda. He cited the recent departure of Morro Bay police Cmdr. Bryan Millard and Chief Amy Christey’s upcoming exit as reasons to consider new options. Christey, who is taking a job in Pacific Grove, will be replaced Aug. 1 by an interim chief.

“Should the city of Morro Bay conduct research into the question of obtaining a proposal from the SLO County Sheriff’s Office to provide law enforcement services in the city?” will be the specific question council members will discuss, according to the memo.

A consulting firm that conducted a 2015 financial and organization study for the city recommended, among other things, that the city consider the costs of contract police services.

Morro Bay budgeted about $3.2 million in the 2016-17 fiscal year for police department expenditures. The city pays the police chief an annual salary of $151,024. Officers earn between $57,872 and $70,344 per year, based on the department’s salary schedule, plus benefits.

Mayor Jamie Irons said council members and city administration want to discuss the issue and gather public input before beginning the process of hiring a new police chief. It will be important, he said, for candidates to understand what the future of the department looks like.

In preparation for the council discussion, city staff will “conduct limited discussions” with the Sheriff’s Office, according to the memo. Sticking points for the city will include maintaining current response times and staffing levels along with ensuring a similar or better level of service.

When fully staffed, the department has 18 officer positions, including the chief and commander, plus a support services coordinator and a part-time technician, according to the city.

Irons said it’s important for residents to understand that outsourcing the department remains in the exploratory phases, noting: “This is just a discussion.”

He said he wants to be able to make public the details of contracting police services, so residents can provide informed opinions. No decisions have been made yet, he said.

“Let’s take this recommendation and do a first brush look at what this will look like,” Irons said.

Those interested in providing input on the issue can email council members or Buckingham, the city manager, with their thoughts, which residents can access at www.morro-bay.ca.us. A staff report is also available on the website, so that people can be prepared ahead of the council meeting. Residents can also sign up to be notified when the report is posted online.

The public will also be able to provide comments at the next City Council meeting, which will be held at 6 p.m. Aug. 9 at Veterans Memorial Hall, 209 Surf St.

Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseyholden27