A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

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Contracting Helps Cash-Strapped City Add More Police Officers For Less Money — And Better Service

Emergency manager action 'best thing that has happened in the city of Pontiac in a long time'

For eight consecutive years, the city of Pontiac broke the law by spending more for police services than it budgeted.

According to the city records, Pontiac violated the State Budget Act from 2002 to 2009 and was part of the reason why an emergency financial manager was appointed in 2009.

In August 2011, Emergency Manager Lou Schimmel worked out an arrangement where the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office took over as provider of police services for Pontiac.

The sheriff’s office brought in the existing 50 Pontiac police officers and re-hired 13 other former Pontiac police officers who had been laid off, and added 11 sheriff’s deputies to patrol the city.

The result was not just an extra 24 officers, but the transition saved $4.2 million while response time to calls dropped from 76 minutes under the Pontiac police to 9 minutes, 45 seconds under the Sheriff’s Department.

Pontiac spent $13.7 million on police services in 2009. That dropped to $9.5 million in 2011.

“Whatever services the city was providing before were high cost without high quality,” said James Hohman, a fiscal policy analyst with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “Governments across the state have the power to do a better job with the taxpayer money they receive. Residents should be skeptical when local officials threaten service cuts to justify tax increases.”

Bob Daddow, Oakland County Deputy Executive, said in an email the county was able to absorb many of the clerical and other costs that were used to hire more officers.

“The county absorbs the overhead costs as a good faith effort to assist local units in lowering their policing costs and think about it, we already had those functions with or without Pontiac,” Daddow said in an email. “In fact, because Pontiac gave up their dispatch system we actually can lower the county’s cost of maintaining their dispatch function now that it is rolled into the sheriff’s office.”

City officials applauded the transition.

“This is the best thing that has happened in the city of Pontiac in a long time,” Pontiac Mayor Leon Jukowski said in a press release. “It was the best decision for the community, the Pontiac officers, who are now sheriff’s deputies, and the entire city of Pontiac.”

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See also:

Proposal 1: Referendum on the Emergency Manager Law

City Spends $8 Million on Theater — Sells It Eight Years Later for $135,000

City Has Been Paying $10,000 A Month To Light Vacant Garage

Before Emergency Manager, Pontiac Had 87 Different Health Plans

Pontiac Turnaround Stories: City Versus Schools