A Roseville City Council member’s startling proposal to save up to $3 million a year by dissolving the city’s police department was denied late Monday night.
But Tammy McGehee’s broader point about the need to ease the fiscal strain on an aging, increasingly fixed-income suburb drew support.
“I commend a bold proposal that takes a hard and a different look at our budget,” said Council Member Lisa Laliberte. “That’s positive. But this is not where I would have looked.”
The proposal was to work out a deal with the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, which provides law enforcement services for seven other north metro suburbs. But City Manager Patrick Trudgeon contended that Roseville is not the same as those places.
“We have more calls for service than those seven municipalities combined,” he said. “If we add our workload, you double the work they have now,” with unpredictable effects on cost, he added.
Suburban cities like Roseville and Maplewood, both home to major regional shopping malls and satellite commercial areas, often have elevated crime rates compared to other suburbs. They can rival Minneapolis and St. Paul for the amount of crime per capita, although multitudes of thefts are far more common there than violent offenses.
McGehee said she would aim for a similar arrangement as the one Newport reached with Washington County, in which no one lost a job but blue police shirts were replaced by brown deputy garb. Newport officials said at the time that vacant positions were a big key to achieving savings without threatening anyone’s livelihood.
Trudgeon said that dissolving the Roseville department now would surrender control at a sensitive moment for police accountability.
“We have an extreme vetting process in hiring, with several months’ field training with experienced officers,” he said. “Every move is noted. If that new hire is not up to our standards we do not keep that person. I can count three officers in recent years who did not get through that.
“If it goes to the county, what are they taught on the street? How about discipline of officers? Out of our hands.”
Several citizens objected as well. City Council members weren’t receptive either.
“When people have an issue they can come here to City Hall and go to that window and talk to a real person,” as opposed to contending with a distant bureaucracy, Council Member Bob Willmus said.
Mayor Dan Roe said that any savings under the plan seemed based on “current Roseville staffing which may not be adequate for our needs. I think we are operating lean. If we add people, the savings go away.”
McGehee said the proposal seeks a formal bid from the Sheriff’s Office to find out how much it would cost. She said she didn’t expect quick acceptance, but did want to draw attention to taxes and fees that are outpacing inflation. In the past five years, she said, taxes and fees on the median priced home in Roseville grew by 42 percent.
On that score, Willmus said:
“If the concern is rising costs, let’s look at legitimate ways to reduce costs. I’ve been concerned about costs in the last several budget cycles. Perhaps there’s a mechanism to look closer at things. But the answer is not farming out policing to the Ramsey County sheriff.”