Christopher Rosacker
crosacker@theunion.com

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June 24, 2013
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Nevada City to reconsider shared Grass Valley police plan

After Nevada City’s council rejected its own police chief’s initial joint proposal with his Grass Valley counterpart for their departments to patrol streets and investigate crimes together, that governing body will consider those officials’ updated plan at their meeting Wednesday.

“I hope they realize it is a good sharing of resources,” said Grass Valley Mayor Dan Miller, whose own council unanimously endorsed the cooperative police proposal at its June 11 meeting.

Miller and other Grass Valley city officials were at Nevada City’s meeting the following night where several members of that town’s council criticized the initial proposal for a six-month shared-services trial and voted to table the plan until the two chiefs specifically articulated the operational structure for GVPD officers to patrol Nevada City’s streets between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. during week days when an average of less than one call of service has occurred per night.

“I was frankly disappointed in the arguments the council members were making to almost derail the efforts of the two departments,” Miller said.

“All we are trying to do is put another skill in the hands of Nevada City police that they can take back and use,” Miller also said. “It seemed their council was so hung up on whether this was a precursor to further consolidation (of police departments) … To me that is such a weak argument against this proposal because the upside is huge.”

Little disagreement was voiced on the benefits of the plan that calls for one Nevada City officer to work under Grass Valley’s wing as a detective, a position Chief Jim Wickham’s department currently lacks. Instead, much of councilwomen Terri Andersen and Sally Harris’ concerns focused on the part of the plan that calls for Grass Valley officers to patrol Nevada City streets during those late hours — something Wickham said is necessary to enable him to allocate a position to the shared detective.

Nevada City Manager David Brennan touched on that topic at the meeting when he noted that Nevada City’s increased sales tax that was approved by voters in November to prop up city services has only a five-year duration. With the city’s pension obligation expected to see as much as a 50 percent increase due to a state mandate, Brennan said that the two chiefs’ proposal is an example of an opportunity to move toward sustainability.

“When they hired me, they asked me to give them recommendations to become more efficient and provide a better level of service, and this is one of those things that I believe will truly improve the quality of service to Nevada City,” Wickham said.

In the updated proposal for Wednesday’s meeting, Brennan notes that the collaboration’s potential increase in service levels would not only require no added strain to the NCPD budget, but that it could even reduce the cost per service call. Grass Valley also stands to save money from the alignment, as it has from all county law enforcement agencies consolidating their dispatch centers, according to GVPD Chief John Foster.

“And it’s just trial,” Wickham said. “Lets look outside the box and try something new.”

The updated proposal notes that during those early morning hours, Grass Valley’s patrol zones will augment to allocate one officer to Nevada City, in addition to a supervising sergeant who would rove between both towns. Night-shift officers in Nevada City currently have no supervisors, Wickham said.

“We’ve been doing this already. We’re just making it more formalized with patrol backing each other up,” Foster said to Nevada City’s council at its last meeting.

Another addition to the proposal requires that Grass Valley officer to report the number calls responded to after each shift, the call’s type and disposition, as well as the number of self-initiated incidents and their type and disposition. The update also requires that report to be funneled into monthly reports to the Nevada City Council during the pilot project’s six-month duration.

Wickham hopes his council will be satisfied with his modifications, he said.

“Obviously, if they vote it down Wednesday, it will make a bold statement to the GVPD,” Wickham said.

But Miller said a statement has already been made. Although Grass Valley has no plans to revisit the proposal it already adopted, Miller said his council’s view of any future collaboration with Nevada City, such as a potential shared fire chief, will be tinged by its council’s discussion at its last meeting.

“We are going to think twice before sitting down and have that discussion,” Miller said. “Unfortunately, there are members on that city council who are forward thinking and looking for areas to share resources and other hesitant members who are not.”

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email crosacker@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

“Lets look outside the box and try something new.”

— Jim Wickham,
Nevada City Police chief


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The Union Updated Jun 24, 2013 02:02AM Published Jun 26, 2013 01:50AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.