Consultant Hired By Saugatuck Officials For $15,000 To Conduct Police Services Review
After reviewing the matter at a workshop session and participating in a question-and-answer session with the perspective consultant, Saugatuck officials hired Alexander Weiss Consulting, LLC to conduct research of the appropriate level of police services required in the city.
The council approved the research project, which comes with a $15,000 price tag, at its Monday night meeting.
“When you ask citizens how frequently they would like to see a police car patrol their street they often suggest something like every 30 minutes,” reads a text from Weiss’ proposal.
“To meet this objective would almost always require significantly increasing (sometimes 10 or 20 fold) the size of the department,” warned Weiss.
“Ironically, frequent neighborhood patrols may lead residents to believe that the neighborhood is dangerous,” suggesting how tricky studying and gauging what the right police force for a community can get.
Weiss’ study will consider public opinion in the form of focus groups that will be comprised of community and business leaders, neighborhood watch associations, and other stakeholders and residents.
The study’s approach rests in three key elements.
First, the careful examination of data—nature of calls, time of dispatch, location, etc.
Second, the consultant would look at performance objectives of the community.
“It is a relatively straightforward process to build a staffing model based on calls for service, but most communities want public safety personnel to do more than simply answer calls for service,” noted Weiss.
“Our staffing model will reflect community expectations about the use of discretionary (police) time.”
Finally, the study will include discussions with the people doing the actual work.
Saugatuck’s efforts are taking place as officials from the entire Saugatuck area community (the Tri-Community of Saugatuck, Douglas and Saugatuck Township) are thinking about and discussing police service and its cost, and flirt with the idea of combining police, fire and EMS (emergency services) under a kind of authority structure with the goal of optimizing those services.
For the time being, that idea has been deferred—each municipality wants to first focus on their own specific needs.
Township officials also said they wanted to wait until the new administration (two of the five-member board are new following the November General Election) settles down to its new roles.
Regardless, the Weiss research also will examine the options of consolidation.
“Policing in the United States is decentralized and fragmented,” noted Weiss in its report. “In recent years there has been considerably more discussion about sharing services, either through consolidation, merger, or contracting.
“These approaches are highly controversial, but provide extraordinary opportunity for officers and, in many cases, improve the quality of (police) service delivery.”