AP police decision isn't just about money
TBO.comElected officials face a tough reality when dealing with budgets. Just keeping existing budgets is almost impossible, and then come questions on where the cuts must come from. Every choice they make is wrong in someone's eyes and compelling arguments can always be made. Avon Park City Council members have one of those critical decisions to make when considering whether to keep the city's police department or contract law enforcement from elsewhere. It's not as cut and dried as it seems.
Published: July 1, 2012
Published: July 1, 2012
For several years the idea of having the Highlands County Sheriff's Office take over law enforcement duties to save money has been tossed out there for consideration. The latest report from Sheriff Susan Benton on the cost her office would charge is impressive. The city could save more than a million dollars by going with the sheriff's office, at least in the cost analysis the city received.
The sheriff estimated that it would cost the city $983,280 to provide coverage for Avon Park. That would include making the current building a substation of sorts with supervision and deputies. Current Avon Park officers would get first consideration to become deputies.
The proposed budget for the city's police department is about $2 million. There's no doubt that if the city wanted to pursue making a change that the costs for the sheriff's office might change depending on what the council wants.
We believe the sheriff's office would do a good job supplying law enforcement for Avon Park, but we also think that if there's anyway that can be avoided, city council members should do it. Having a local police force, we believe, is important and provides more to the city than just officers on the street.
Avon Park council members, as well as City Manager Julian Deleon, have said they have much research to do. That includes talking to cities such as Frostproof and others that contract with the Polk County Sheriff's Office to get a better understanding how that works. We're glad they're putting in the effort.
A local police department is important to communities. For many citizens, they want to know that "their" police department is keeping their city safe. That's not to say the sheriff's office wouldn't do that, but there's a perception issue here.
Just like when Lake Placid considered this same thing a few years ago, it was clear that most citizens wanted their own police department. Most communities, we believe, feel the same way. It's a part of a city's identity.
It's true that there have been issues with that identity in past years in Avon Park. It's also true that most of that is gone now, and the department has made great strides in the last year to reverse a lot of what was troubling it.
Whether that warm feeling the community gets or any perception issues are worth $1 million, well, that's what city council members have to decide. But it's more than just a money issue.