Vallejo to consider police merger

June 23, 2009 12:01:13 PM PDT
The Vallejo City Council will consider a proposal to save money by merging Vallejo's police department with Solano County's sheriff's department.

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The city of Vallejo is bankrupt. It is also a city which spends 80 percent of its city fund on police and fire services. So it makes sense to councilwoman Stephanie Gomes to see if merging its police and fire departments with other agencies might save a bundle of money.

"It's like that book, 'Who moved my cheese.' The cheese has been moved and Vallejo has to figure out what we want to do now. What does our new cheese look like? Where are we going to go? How are we going to provide services that the citizens want, and they are paying for, and they deserve, with less revenue?" said Gomes.

Vallejo Police Chief Bob Nichelini is all for saving the city money, but he points out that in a city that is the most violent city of its size in the state, more violent than Richmond or Berkeley, his department is getting by with a budget less than half of what those cities spend.

"Our proposed budget for next year is short of $23 million. I just got a flier that they are recruiting for a police chief in Berkeley and they are advertising a budget there of $56 million," said Nichelini.

Chief Nichelini also says he is unaware of any city the size of Vallejo, 120,000 residents, which contracts with other agencies for police services.

"These are the kinds of things Vallejo has to look for if we are going to make meaningful change and get out of bankruptcy and start climbing and not just staying stagnant," said Gomes.

Solano County Sheriff Gary Stanton sees the big pay discrepancy between sheriff's deputies and Vallejo police officers as a potential stumbling block, but he's keeping an open mind.

Councilwoman Gomes says she is merely putting this up for a vote to put this on a future agenda. Any final action is many, many months away, if at all. She just wants to know what her city's options are.

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