Eastvale decides to stick with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department

By on December 2, 2019

Several factors led the young city to drop the idea of forming its own police department. It would, however, like a sheriff’s substation.

Eastvale has decided it won’t form its own police department.

After several public hearings last spring, and much consideration about finances and the difficulties of starting a law enforcement agency from scratch, Eastvale officials have decided to keep its law enforcement partnership with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

The city of 73,000 residents that incorporated nine years ago does want to put a sheriff’s substation within its borders, which would make responding to calls easier and quicker for for sheriff’s deputies, Mayor Todd Rigby said.

Eastvale officials began considering forming their own police department to save money, when it was believed the sheriff’s department would raise the price of its contract to $74.8 million during the next five years.

A city-operated department would have cost an estimated $68.3 million during its first five years, considerable savings for a young city.

An Eastvale staff report also noted that the cost of law enforcement in Eastvale has gone up 30 percent during the past five years, well above the regional cost-of-living index. The 30 percent increase that dates to 2014 reportedly included patrol hours that Eastvale paid for but did not receive, according to the report.

Ultimately, the time didn’t seem right for a new police department.

“Money had a lot to do with it, but it wasn’t the only factor,” Rigby said. “The fact is, the sheriff’s department was talking about an increase of seven to nine percent, but now it’s saying it’s only going to be 2.5  to three percent. We took a closer look at the numbers and found out that the original estimates weren’t accurate.”

“From our perspective, that is lot more reasonable. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to start your own department because of a 2.5 to three percent cost  increase.”

The sheriff’s department has also pledged to become more involved with the community, something a substation would make easier to do.

“We would like see more community policing, and the department has agreed to do that,” Rigby said. 

Eastvale held four meetings last spring during which forming a police department was discussed: a budget workshop, a safety commission meeting, a city council meeting and a special community meeting.

Only 20 to 30 people attended the safety commission meeting, which was exclusively about the police department proposal, indicating that Eastvale residents maybe weren’t enthusiastic about having their law enforcement agency.

A combination of factors led to city dropping the idea of forming its own police department, City Manager Bryan Jones said.

One was the revelation that staying with the sheriff’s department wouldn’t be as expensive as originally thought, Jones said.

But changes in the state’s liability laws regarding police departments, which are now likely to be held more responsible for on-the-job issues than in the past, also played a role in the decision, according to Jones. 

“I think there was community support, but when we took a closer look we decided that maybe it’s not the right time,” Jones said. “There was a sense of ‘let’s sit back and see what Menifee does, and how that works out,’ because law enforcement is one of the most expensive things that any city has to pay for.”

Menifee never wavered once after it announced it would start its own police department. It has already hired a chief and several captains, and it’s recruiting officers. Like Eastvale, Menifee contracts with Riverside County for its law enforcement, but its police department is scheduled to take over next July 1.

The department is expected to start with 20 to 30 sworn officers, a support staff of 35 to 40 along with sergeants and lieutenants.

Meanwhile, Eastvale is looking at putting a sheriff’s substation within its borders, although that idea is barely off the ground.

Cost and location have not been determined, although it’s possible that something could be built on a vacant parcel near Fire Station 27, at Hamner Avenue and Riverboat Drive. The result would be a quicker response time for sheriff’s deputies.

“We’re still looking for a site and evaluating costs,” Jones said. “The idea is still in its infancy.  And I don’t think you will hear us talking about forming our own department anytime soon. Only if something drastic comes up.”

During the past nine years, Eastvale has never expressed dissatisfaction about the service it has received from the sheriff’s department,  said Lt. Tim Martin, who oversees the department’s work in Eastvale.

The sheriff’s department  serves 17 cities and all of the county’s unincorporated territories, Martin said.

“We hate to lose any city, but if [Eastvale] can save money by forming their own police department we would understand that,” Martin said. “Either way, it has one of the lowest crime rates in the state. It’s a very safe place to live.”