Saturday, September 15, 2007

Contract policing: Worth a look in unincorporated Kenosha County

Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth's plan for contract policing in Pleasant Prairie laid an egg a couple of years ago.

Not only is the performance of the Pleasant Prairie Police Department at the top of the heap but the staffing level and cost are among the lowest in the state and, in fact, the nation. By all standards the village police department is actually understaffed.

The proposal for contract policing in Pleasant Prairie was the wrong idea at the wrong time. The sheriff's proposal would have had fewer officers dedicated to the village based in downtown Kenosha with supervision and investigative services provided by existing sheriff's personnel. For many reasons it wasn't the best deal for the village and the village board, despite its disrespectful treatment of the sheriff, wisely turned it down.

That said, there are places where contract policing would make sense.

All of Kenosha County is experiencing population growth and that means more demands for police services. The only municipalities with police departments in Kenosha County are the City of Kenosha and Villages of Pleasant Prairie, Silver Lake and Twin Lakes. Paddock Lake contracts with the sheriff for 16 hours a day of dedicated patrol coverage.

The Paddock Lake model is something that towns like Salem, Bristol and Somers should consider. While the sheriff's department will respond to calls in unincorporated areas, these growing towns should consider having deputies dedicated to patrolling within them who would not leave the community except to assist in an emergency.

Unlike Pleasant Prairie, which has a well-established police department, the towns do not. The cost to start up a police department -- something that would likely need to be done at some point -- is considerable and contracting with the county for dedicated service might be the most efficient and cost-effective option.

The three towns mentioned would do well to invite the sheriff to sit down and explore, in a collaborative manner, the feasibility of contracts for dedicated patrol services.

Further, Randall should also consider contracting for dedicated patrol services but should consider whether these services would best be provided by the county or the Village of Twin Lakes, which has a long-established police department in a new facility capable of expansion.

While contract policing wasn't the right fit for Pleasant Prairie, it's worth considering elsewhere.

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