Queen Creek study considers starting municipal police department

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Continuing to contract with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services, starting a Queen Creek police department or paying an adjacent municipality were topics covered by town staff members in a recent study.

The town has contracted with MCSO for law enforcement services since 1990, growing from a quarter of one patrol beat to six beats, currently. From the start of the contract, the town has grown from just a few thousand residents to more than 52,000, according to the study.

A presentation was made to the council at its Dec. 4 meeting, with no decisions made.

Input from residents and stakeholders is needed before a decision is made, Councilmember Julia Wheatley said at the meeting.

“This is probably the largest policy decision I’ll make on council. It is incredibly important,” she said.

“It’s an incredibly well-done study --- easy to digest and understand. It makes it very clear. If we’re going to invest in our future and a high-growth area with our needs currently being met, because of the growth, we don’t have a lot of options here,” Councilmember Wheatley said.

“I like the idea of engaging certain groups. I also want to be very mindful ... I want this to be very data-driven, not emotionally driven,” Councilmember Emilena Turley said.

Law-enforcement needs

During a March strategic-planning session, the Town Council directed staff to conduct a study to evaluate the issues and options related to the future of law-enforcement services within the town, Tracy Corman, assistant to the town manager, said in a memo to the council.

“Staff is not making a recommendation as part of the study, and is looking for direction from council on next steps,” Ms. Corman said in the memo.

The study was initiated for the purpose of conducting research and evaluation in the following areas:

  • Determine the required law enforcement resources that will be needed as the community continues to grow and evolve.
  • Conduct a comparative analysis of other police departments.
  • Evaluate the delivery of services and how to maintain appropriate levels of service with MCSO, a municipal police department or other options.

“One thing I do want to mention is despite the different issues and options and opportunities that we have identified in the police-services study, this is in no way a reflection on the existing staff in the (MCSO) District 6 Queen Creek operation program. They’ve been absolutely outstanding to work with and really do a fantastic job with the resources that they are given,” Town Manager John Kross said at the Dec. 4 meeting.

Mayor Gail Barney agreed.

“This is no reflection --- at all --- on our local deputies and on Capt. (Greg) Lugo,” he said.

“A matter of fact, they’ve been doing a yeoman’s job the last year. We’ve had up to 13 sworn officers down on what the contract we have with MCSO allowed or what we should have had. So, our deputies have been putting in extra effort, in my opinion, extra work to make sure that we’re safe,” Mayor Barney said.

The cost to the town for MCSO law-enforcement is $8,680,840 in fiscal year 2021 and $10,286,600 in fiscal year 2022. In fiscal year 2022, the first fully staffed year studied for a municipal police department, the cost of personnel, operations and capital equipment would be $11,844,972, according to the study.

“Generally speaking, it’s about 10% differential, if anybody is curious with respect to our forecast from year-to-year, with the sheriff’s office being about 10% lower,” Mr. Kross said.

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