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YORBA LINDA : Consultant Is Hired to Study Police Costs

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Despite having one of the lowest crime rates and one of the lowest per capita police service costs in Orange County, the city has hired a consultant to analyze its contract with Brea police, study the possibility of establishing its own police force and evaluate alternative sources of law enforcement.

The City Council requested the study in August after the Brea Police Department increased the cost of police service to the city from $4.7 million to $5.1 million for the 1992-1993 fiscal year.

Since then, several council members have expressed an interest in altering the agreement with Brea so that they can participate in labor negotiations between Brea and its Police Officers Assn.

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In addition, Councilman Mark Schwing has expressed concern over the city’s lack of control over rising labor costs.

“We have no input into negotiations” between Brea and the Police Officers Assn., Schwing said. “Police costs have gone up $2 million in the last two years, and I think we should have a role in (labor) negotiations.”

Councilman Daniel T. Welch said his major concern is the rubber-stamp approval the contract has received in the past.

“The police contract is the single largest expenditure this city has,” Welch said. “The attitude of past councils has been not to mess with it because it works. But if you are a businessman, you are always analyzing expenditures carefully, especially ones this large.”

On Tuesday, the council hired Hughes, Heiss & Associates for $36,000 to conduct the study. The firm will evaluate Brea Police Department’s effectiveness and how well the city’s contract with the Police Department reflects actual costs incurred in providing police service.

The consultants will also provide a proposed structure for the city’s own police department, such as the number of police officers and civilian employees needed to provide the current level of service. The analysis will include the cost of establishing and maintaining a police department.

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A third component of the study is to identify other law enforcement agencies that could provide the same level of service to the city at a competitive cost.

According to Assistant City Manager David Gruchow, the study does not reflect any dissatisfaction with the Brea Police Department.

“The study is a reality check,” Gruchow said. “Anytime you have a contract for $5 million, you owe it to the taxpayers to take a good hard look” at the alternatives.

The city’s contract with the Brea Police Department provides for 74,340 hours of direct police service. The hours, equivalent to about 47 full-time officers and 10 reserve officers, are divided into patrol, traffic enforcement, investigations and school resources.

The city also pays nearly half of the salary and benefits of Brea Police Chief Donald L. Forkus and 49 other administrative personnel.

At $93.47 per capita, Yorba Linda’s cost for police service ranks fourth-lowest in the county, after Laguna Niguel ($74.85), Villa Park ($77.79) and Mission Viejo ($79.65). Those cities contract with the Sheriff’s Department for police service.

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According to figures gathered by the Law Enforcement Information Center, Yorba Linda had the second-lowest crime rate in the county in 1991, and ranked 38 out of 483 cities in the state.

Yorba Linda has contracted with Brea for police service since 1971. At that time, Yorba Linda had less than 12,000 residents and a small commercial base. Today, the city has about 55,000 residents, and its commercial base has recently expanded. Calls for police service have risen, from 4,573 in 1970 to 14,163 in 1990.

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