Pushed by the high cost of replacing radio equipment, local police departments have learned the value of banding together to form joint dispatching operations. Unfortunately, further consolidation of the region’s fragmented law enforcement agencies has been rare.
Last week, a trio of local sheriffs set a positive example by beginning talks on regionalizing services in the face of budget cutbacks. David Doak, the Portage County sheriff, made the practical assessment that “everybody” is looking to find additional resources without straining county budgets hit by the recession and cuts by the state.
So far, talks also involve the sheriffs in Summit and Stark counties, but future meetings may include those from Cuyahoga, Medina and Wayne. There are many topics on the table, among them the formation of multicounty specialty units (such as a crime scene unit or drug task force) and merging administrative functions such as personnel, training and computer operations.
All would be effective in reducing costs, avoiding duplication and delivering better services, as recognized by the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association, which deserves credit for sparking the discussion. Sheriffs in Ohio have broad powers and often have a leadership role among local police departments. With new sheriffs to be elected in Summit, Stark, Medina and Wayne counties next week, the time is right to lead toward consolidation.