In police consolidation, bigger isn't necessarily better

Local police departments in Onondaga County have released a report that challenges the reasons behind consolidation of police departments with the Sheriff's Office.

Using information compiled by the Onondaga County Comptroller and the Sheriff's Office's tracking system, the Onondaga County chapter of the Chiefs of Police Association found that compared with Sheriff's deputies, local town and village police officers answer the vast majority of calls for much less cost to taxpayers.

For instance, Town of Manlius police officers answered a little more than 19,000 calls for service last year, while Sheriff's deputies answered 870 calls. The chiefs point out that the people of Manlius paid $2.6 million to the Sheriff's Office to handle those 870 calls, while paying it cost them $4.3 million to operate the entire Manlius Police Department.

The chairman of the County Chiefs of Police, Michael Lefancheck, says the report shows that when it comes to consolidation, bigger isn't always better and that local police departments give taxpayers more "bang for their buck."

Sheriff Kevin Walsh says he has not seen the report, but says he's asked his budget people to look into how the chiefs came up with their numbers. Walsh says the department's 135 patrol deputies "efficiently" answered 110,000 calls last year. He says when a call comes into 911, the closest car will be first on the scene, so it's not surprising that local police departments will register more calls than Sheriff's deputies.

Walsh says when the Town of Clay abolished its police department in favor of a contract with the Sheriff's Department, taxpayers saved about a million dollars.

The report comes at a time when a voter referendum to do away with the Cicero Police Department to go with the Sheriff's Office has been put on hold.

The police chiefs also expect there will be renewed calls for consolidation in towns where property taxes are expected to climb as a result of the redistribution of sales tax money which deprives the towns of much needed revenue.

Click here to download and read a report on the police department budgets for Onondaga County, broken down by municipality.