The entire San Carlos Police Department was sworn in en masse to the
Sheriff’s Office yesterday, culminating approximately a year of debate
and decisions in the city’s innovative decision to outsource public
safety for a $2 million annual savings.
The five-year contract with the Sheriff’s Office actually took
effect Oct. 31 but a ceremonial swearing outside the historic
courthouse in Redwood City yesterday signaled for many the actual end
of the 85-year-old city department.
Sheriff Greg Munks, former San Carlos Police Chief Greg Rothaus
— now a sheriff’s captain heading up the San Carlos bureau — and city
officials supporting outsourcing have told residents they shouldn’t
expect much change short of a different badge and some shift of
administrative duties to the Sheriff’s Office in Redwood City.
Detractors, including San Carlos residents who tried
unsuccessfully to block the move with a measure that never made it to
the ballot, have warned the city is risking public safety and possible
financial footing if it ever wishes to re-establish its own department.
But Monday morning, with rows of uniform-clad officers and
employees swearing to uphold the law as sheriff’s deputies, the talk
was instead of pride, camaraderie and the future.
“We welcome them with open arms and will take very good care of them,” said Sheriff Greg Munks.
Although Munks mentioned the economic struggles that led to the
city’s decision to outsource, he focused primarily on greeting his
newest employees and their loved ones.
“We are a family here at the Sheriff’s Office and you are now part of that family,” Munks said.
Those bonds were evident as wives, children, parents and others
pinned badges on the recently sworn in. Some struggled through the
stiff uniform cloth. Others pushed through with ease. The flash of
cameras competed with the flash of grins as hugs, high-fives and even a
two-thumbs up finished up the ceremony.
“This was just beautiful. I was impressed,” said Suzie McCarty,
who pinned her husband, Craig McCarty, along with their
2-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Alice.
McCarty, who was with the San Carlos Police Department for two
years before the transition, was really looking forward to the handoff,
his wife said.
The Sheriff’s Office beat out Redwood City for the San Carlos
police contract in large part because it guaranteed jobs for every
member of the 39-member department. The Sheriff’s Office had roughly
two dozen vacancies and the county agreed to add the handful of others.
The contract also transfers equipment and either resurrects or enhances
programs like DARE and traffic enforcement.
To end a $3.5 million budget deficit and a decade of cuts, San
Carlos has also already outsourced its parks maintenance and human
resources payroll. Officials are now awaiting proposals for fire
service, with Cal Fire, Redwood City, San Mateo and Menlo Park expected
to be in the mix. Bids are due in early December and a new provider
could be in place by next October when the city’s joint powers
agreement with the city of Belmont dissolves, ending the Belmont-San
Carlos Fire Department.