SAN BERNARDINO - The Sheriff's Department would need about the Police Department's current budget to police the city, but would not provide many of the services now handled by police and would require $8.7million in additional start-up costs, according to a much-anticipated report from the sheriff.

The proposal, which the city released Friday afternoon, estimates it would cost $53.1million to police the city, a figure that doesn't include an estimated $7.9million for such costs as overtime, fuel and a pension obligation bond. The Sheriff's Department also would not provide animal control, code enforcement and some other services that are included in the Police Department's budget.

A divided City Council voted in November to find out the cost of contracting out law neforcement, saying the city, which has filed for bankruptcy protection, had to demonstrate to the bankruptcy judge and skeptical creditors that they'd considered all possible cost savings, even those that many considered politically unpalatable.

As recently as August, documents showed San Bernardino police had a $62million budget, but cutbacks and departing officers have left a budget of about $54million, according to Police Chief Robert Handy.

Handy is scheduled to give a formal response to the council on Jan. 22, after receiving the 14-page report far ahead of the six- to 12-month time frame the council was given, said Mayor Pat Morris.

"I think it's critically important that we thank the sheriff and his team that prepared this proposal," Morris said. "They did it with a quick turnaround time, and our city really appreciates that collegial cooperation.... I think everything needs to be analyzed with a really deep drill-down. We owe this to our taxpayers."

Morris has consistently said officials needed to look for the highest-quality service for the lowest possible cost in all departments, a position some took as advocating outsourcing but which he said is not.

"Our obligation is to our taxpayers," he said. "If (the sheriff's report and Handy's response) come back with a generally level cost, we'll obviously opt for our Police Department, which I have great faith in."

City Attorney James F. Penman, who initiated conversations with then-Sheriff Rod Hoops about the potential of contracting out policing services, said the report confirms his earlier expectation that no one else could effectively police San Bernardino for less.

"I said that to a number of people at the time, that the amount of money that it was going to police the city was going to be millions of dollars more than it is for our police," Penman said. "I was not in favor of it then, I'm not in favor of it now...but as I said, we've been told by our bankruptcy attorney that we need to show we've done everything possible to cut costs and save money."

The city did not pay any money for the report.

Penman also said additional payments to the California Public Employee Retirement System would exceed $100 million if the city went forward with the plan, a number that is not included in the report but which, he said, had been given to the council in closed session.

"What the ultimate source of that was, I don't know, but it was provided very definitively to the mayor and council," he said.

The sheriff proposes policing the city with 251 sworn personnel, compared to what at the time of the report was 270 sworn personnel in the Police Department.

Handy said there were 264 sworn officers Friday, which he said would drop to 260 within the next two or three weeks because of planned retirements and resignations.

Including unsworn employees - office assistants, dispatchers and the like - the total size of the force would drop from 359 to 320.

That comes mostly from eliminating higher-ranking positions. The SBPD has a chief, an assistant chief, three captains and nine lieutenants, administrative ranks the sheriff would thin to one captain and three lieutenants.

"Increased efficiencies in the Sheriff's Department's other established support services keep the overall costs down for contract cities due to economies of scale,..." the report says. "This cost savings, combined with efficient and effective policing, enhance the value of every dollar cities spend on public safety."

Handy attributed the higher efficiency of his department to investments made in earlier years, although he said he would save his in-depth analysis for later.

"I do think that the proposal illustrates that we are doing a pretty effective job for what we have," Handy said. "Yes, I could do more with more, but I think we do it pretty effectively and pretty efficiently."

The report also shows the complexity of policing the city, which is unique in San Bernardino County in its demographics and levels of income and crime.

"As a result of this staffing analysis and comparison study, it appears there are no other local cities that truly compare to the city of San Bernardino in terms of overall crime rate, call volume and service level demands," says the report, signed by Hoops.

The city's 2011 violent crime index is 400percent higher than Rancho Cucamonga's, 50percent higher than Victorville's and 113percent higher than the state average, according to the report.

The violent crime index measures the number of violent crimes - murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

Other challenges to contracting out with the Sheriff's Department include how a city that has delayed paying many of its bills because it says it can't afford them could find $8.7million in start-up costs and the potential that the city's charter, which sets police pay and details how a police chief must be chosen, blocks such a move.

That was among the considerations Councilman Chas Kelley cited when he and two other council members voted against asking for the cost estimate.

"I don't think it was the right time to consider contracting out public safety," Kelley said Friday. "I'm not opposed to contracting out services, but I'm not yet ready to contract out our public safety."


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