GLENDALE — Police officials are exploring a number of cost-recovery measures this fiscal year, such as expanding the city jail’s pay-to-stay program and recouping booking and “at-fault” traffic accident fees, in order to avoid future department cuts.
The measures would also help the Police Department generate revenue for the city, hopefully avoiding layoffs in the future, Interim Police Chief Ron De Pompa said.
“What we are going to try to do, if that occurs the next fiscal year, is try to come up now with some better revenue-generating strategies in place of additional cuts,” he said.
For instance, a booking fee would require all people who are arrested and booked into the city jail to pay a charge, said Juan Lopez, the city’s jail administrator. State law currently allows police agencies to collect a fee from certain offenders as part of their probation fees, but the new program would open it to all offenders.
“Why should the taxpayers have to foot the bill,” Lopez said.
Councilman Ara Najarian brought up three weeks ago charging fees to people who are found to be at-fault in traffic accidents as a way to recover police costs. If the collision required additional police and staffing, the person who caused the accident would have to pay a fee, he said.
That idea is being considered by the Police Department to save costs.
Still, he acknowledged the accident fee likely wouldn’t generate a lot of money, or at least enough to save an officer position, Najarian said.
“I don’t think it’s going to bring in that much money, but it’s something that we are looking at,” he said.
The Police Department is also looking at expanding the city jail’s pay-to-stay program, which allows inmates from outside jurisdictions to pay a fee to lodge in Glendale’s cells. A judge must still sign off on the move.
The program would be expanded from weekend-only stays to all week, Lopez said.
The Police Department would also allow people who paid for the program to have the option to work while they are in jail, rather than remained confined to a cell, he said. That option also saves the department money since the inmates will be performing jailhouse duties, such as laundry.
The program would also open up to more non-serious offenders, Najarian said.
“Whenever we have empty jail cells, it’s lost revenue,” he said.
The jail should be marketed through the court system and criminal defense attorneys, Najarian added.
“It’s a very attractive jail that we have because it’s clean and it’s new and it’s safe,” he said. “And it is often times very sought after by celebrities, but not just celebrities, regular people too that don’t want to get thrown into a county jail environment, which is much, much different than what we have here in Glendale.”
The police are also considering turning their air support program into a money-making operation, De Pompa said, by renting out police helicopters services to other jurisdictions and cities.
The Police Department saved nearly $1 million last year for the city’s general fund, De Pompa said, but that is not expected to be repeated this year.
Police Department officials held two meetings Tuesday to inform officers and civilian officials about how the city’s budget cuts would be affecting the force.
More than 100 officers attended the 8 a.m. meeting, where the potential impacts, including cut positions and trimmed down programs, took the spotlight. “Obviously, everybody is pretty sad about it,” De Pompa said.
If the economy doesn’t turn around, the Police Department could see more cuts in the future, De Pompa said.
The department already eliminated seven sworn officer positions during mid-year cuts last year.
This fiscal year’s cuts include eliminating two officers from the department’s front desk; cutting the School Resource Officer Unit’s sergeant and reassigning him as a fourth officer in the program; three officers from the Community Police Partnerships Unit and two officers from the Downtown Policing Unit.
But departmental vacancies could help save at least four of the seven positions, he said.
To save those positions from being cut, the department has to wait “for retirements, attrition them out against the retirements or do layoffs,” De Pompa said. “So those three officers could be subject to layoff unless the council allows us to tread water and wait for potential retirements between now and the end of the year.”
If council members could get details on when officers would retire weeks in advance to avoid laying off officers, Najarian said, “I think we could sit down and entertain that.”
The City Council could discuss a hold-over or stop gag measure to keep the officers in the department until the retiring officers leave the police force “and we could meet the budget limitations on the Police Department,” he said. “We don’t want to let go of existing officers if we could avoid it.”