San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office benefits from replacing city police

This article was reported and written by Paul Jones and Jamie Hansen of The Peninsula Press staff.

Related News: To cut costs, Half Moon Bay police may merge with county or nearby city

Chief Greg Rothaus addresses San Carlos residents at a meeting Oct. 14, where he discussed the impending transfer of the city's law enforcement services to the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department. (Photo: Paul Jones)

The San Mateo County sheriff’s department took over police services in San Carlos last month and will soon be bidding to do the same in Half Moon Bay.

Cities that can’t afford their own police force are eyeing such arrangements to save money. But the Sheriff’s Department, which also serves Woodside and Portola Valley, sees benefits as well.

For one thing, contracts help stabilize the department’s funding, according to San Mateo Sheriff Greg Munks. “It protects a certain portion of our budget [from] the ups and downs of the county’s budget,” he said. “It’s a revenue stream I can count on.”

The contracts also can help improve efficiency. Undersheriff Carlos Bolanos explained that the department needs extra staffing to ensure it has enough personnel for days when officers are out sick or for when crime spikes. Often, these employees are added onto patrols as extras. By providing police services to more communities, he said, the department can puts its extras to work in contract cities, bringing in more revenue.

“We have the flexibility to [offer] service to them that is cost effective … and doesn’t cost us more to provide,” Bolanos said.

Munks sees advantages of proximity when he ponders an arrangement with Half Moon Bay. The sheriff’s department’s service area borders the coastal city. “Even more so than San Carlos, there are opportunities for shared services because we surround them on all sides,” he said. “I’ve got a substation five or six miles up the road, and if they contracted with us … it might make more sense to move our base of operations into the town.”

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