It's clear that tight budgets make every city service potentially vulnerable, and that's how the Milpitas Police Department suddenly finds itself on the potential chopping block. It costs $22 million to operate the department and the City Council wanted to find out if they could save money by having the police department outsourced.
The 95 sworn officers found themselves in the crosshairs when three of the five council members decided to explore outsourcing to save money. The reaction was immediate: opponents put up posters, a website was created, and citizens began to speak out.
"I do human resources for a living, and I've seen a lot of outsourcing, and it doesn't work. The quality isn't good, the service is not good, and we don't have the compassion that we do from our police department here," said Joy Rajasalu, a Milpitas resident.
The 68,000 residents of Milpitas already have seen cutbacks as the council grappled with a $9 million budget deficit. Park and landscape maintenance were outsourced and 42 city employees were laid off -- that's 10 percent of the work force. Taxpayers are drawing lines where the next cuts should be.
"Not library. Library is an asset, so we don't want them to cut the library, but maybe some other stuff," said Priya Ghedia, a Milpitas resident.
Mayor Jose Esteves said he couldn't break away from work for an on-camera interview, but he told me by phone that outsourcing the police department is just one of many options being studied. Vice Mayor Pete McHugh voted against the outsourcing proposal.
"If the sheriff was to takeover our services, the residents of Milpitas would not have much of an impact on the sheriff who's basically responsible for the two million people within the county," said McHugh.
But the only agency that expressed interest in bidding to provide police services was Santa Clara County Sheriff and it just indicated it is not interested in bidding. So residents are still facing other cut budgets.
"We have to find ways to raise the economy. It's no longer a question of, 'What you can cut? It's find a way to create more jobs so there is a greater tax basis,'" said Richard Levy, a Milpitas taxpayer.
Because of the public outcry, a council member at Tuesday night's meeting plans to introduce a resolution that we would require a vote of the public, before outsourcing the police department could ever happen.