Truckee set to get own police department
Town council voted to proceed with plans for an independent Truckee police department to replace Nevada County Sheriff Office’s services, after a special meeting with NCSO representatives on July 13.The meeting was called to address financing for the potential police department and unresolved issues with the changeover, but the discussion often returned to council’s interest in a new police force that could put more emphasis on community policing.The council voted 4-0, with councilman Bob Drake abstaining, to pursue plans for Truckee to get its own police department.Drake abstained from voting due to a conflict of interest. He announced his interest in a possible position with the as-yet unformed Truckee police department.Town Manager Steve Wright opened the proceedings by confirming that Truckee has sufficient money to finance a new police department under the town budget passed on July 6. He estimates the new department would have operating costs of $250,000 more per year than is currently budgeted for sheriff services.He expects the annual police budget to be $3.1 million, the single largest expenditure of the town budget. The first year will also include $1.5 million for start-up expenses including facilities, either in the existing building or in the new Town Hall. However, Wright warned that there might be unforeseen costs in the transition.”I believe that the council really wants to go forward with the police department,” said Sheriff’s Department Captain Gary Jacobson. “They have wanted to since the town was incorporated.” He added that he believes that the town’s financial position will now make that finally possible.But there are still several issues that remain unresolved with the new police force.Beyond the extra operating costs, which would include workers’ compensation, liability, training and administration, council discussed the idea that a town police department would be under pressure to offer more services to Truckee.Currently, the NCSO covers a variety of small expenses and assumes much of the town’s base cost. Council members considered that some of the higher costs would come from citizen complaints and requests for added services from the local force.Council also discussed the added cost of salaries since they plan on paying the new force more.”Town council will control setting salaries and expects to pay them more,” said council member Bob Drake. “Nevada County has been one of the lowest-paid counties in the state,” he said.Council has decided that if they approve the new police force, they will not to rehire the present deputies en masse.”We would have an open competition for officers,” said Drake, who reassured the present force that officers who have worked in Truckee will have a significant advantage due to their knowledge of the community.Council also addressed by what standards the potential new force would be recruited and promoted. Council member Ron Florian proposed that the question of seniority could not be resolved if the entire force were recruited at the same time.Another concern was how to handle the relationship between the potential new police department and the NCSO, considering the complexity of the changeover.”I will work very closely with the town and assist them to do everything I can to make it a smooth transition,” said Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal.The core of the debate was over the advantages of a local police force. Some members hoped that the new officers would be required to live in town but agreed that it would be difficult to enforce such a rule considering the cost of living in Truckee.Currently, about 40 percent of Nevada County sheriff’s deputies who serve in Truckee live out of the area, according to Captain Jacobson.Sheriff Royal agreed that “having (your) own police department makes it easier for people to live here.””I believe strongly in community-oriented policing,” said Royal, but noted that “(it) is a philosophy adopted by the organization’s officers,” regardless of where those officers might choose to live.”What makes or breaks a police force regarding its relationship with the community is a dispatch center. (Dispatchers) know the community. I would encourage you to have your own dispatch center,” said Royal.Council member Bob Drake, who had a career in law enforcement before retiring, is a strong proponent of community-oriented policing and believes the responsibility goes one step further.Drake stressed the importance of a local police force, and emphasized the importance of “outreach to various groups. This community would react well to it, instead of (the police) being the hard guys.”If the plan were passed this month, the new department might be in operation as early as the fall of 2001.The next discussion on the issue will be at the next Town Council meeting on Thursday, July 20 at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.Other issues that will be discussed there include voting to authorize the mayor to sign a declaration of emergency on the Donner Lake water crisis.Council will also vote on an amendment to the town budget that will designate $1.5 million to cover the facility costs of a potential new police department. They will also vote to award a contract to Q & D Construction to make certain Town Hall improvements.
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