The police consolidation study, which has been in the works for nearly five years, has been released.
In 2008, the city and county began considering a potential law enforcement agency merger, which would involve consolidation of the Jamestown Police Department and the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office. As a part of the consideration, the city and county engaged the State Division of Criminal Justice Services to analyze and report on the potential viability of a consolidation.
A year later, the Division of Criminal Justice Services issued a report that said merging the Jamestown Police Department and sheriff's office was possible, and that the two entities should take the next steps to develop cost estimates and discuss challenges that might be presented if the merger were to take place.
In order to complete these next steps, the Center for Governmental Research Inc. was called upon in 2012 to develop models and approaches. The research is being funded by a $400,000 grant received by the city.
Jamestown is the largest city in the county, as well as the most diverse. According to the 2010 Census, roughly 25 percent of the county lives in Jamestown.
Additionally19 percent of the population identified as something other than non-Hispanic white, compared to 9 percent for the rest of the county. And, it is estimated that 23 percent of Jamestown's population is below the poverty line, compared to the 15 percent in the rest of the county, according to the consolidation report.
The report also shows that violent and property crimes are higher in Jamestown than in the rest of the county.
"Development and density differences are important considerations for discussions of law enforcement, particularly considering that rural and less dense area demand different law enforcement strategies than those required in a more dense urban area," the report says.
The Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office has 221 full time equivalent employees. Jamestown Police Department, on the other hand, has 96 total employees, 73 of which, according to the consolidation report, may be directly affected by the consolidation.
Currently, for 2012, the Jamestown Police Department makes up 23 percent of the City Budget, while the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office accounts of 11 percent of the county budget. And, Jamestown residents pay, according to the report, an estimated $320 per capita for police and sheriff's office services through the two agencies.
Salaries for both departments are determined through collective bargaining agreements. The Kendall Club Police Benevolent Association represents the Jamestown Police Department, while the Deputy Sheriff's Association of Chautauqua County, Chautauqua County Sheriff's Supervisor's Association and the CSEA represent the majority of employees of the sheriff's office.
Jamestown Police Department officers are paid at higher rates than those at the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office. And, both departments are on different pay scales for members. The report shows that the chief in Jamestown is making $102,705 per year, while the Sheriff is paid $82,500 annually.
The report suggests two basic options available to address salary compensation differentials.
The first option would be to compensate the sheriff's office employees at the Jamestown Police Department levels. This option would require the sheriff's office to also shorten the pay ladder, so officers in both departments would be compensated in the same amount.
On the other hand, Jamestown Police Department officers could be reassigned to the applicable level within the sheriff's office career path. In this scenario, it would take JPD officers more time to reach the top of the pay scale.
As for pension plans, many of the sheriff's deputies participate in a 25-year retirement plan, with eligibility for 50 percent of final average salary at retirement. JPD officers participate in a 20-year plan, with the same eligibility as county officers. Neither plan has a minimum age for retirement.
The consolidation report suggests three options for transitioning pension obligations. The first would be to allow existing officers to "age-out" existing plans over time. New employees could be entered into an available plan at the time of hire.
The second option would be to adopt a comparable plan for everyone. And, the third option would to pass special legislation that would allow sheriff's office employees into the city's retirement plan.
Finally, the consolidation report provides two options for health insurance. The first option is to allow the city and county health plans to merge immediately. The second option is to allow current JPD officers to phase out under their current plan, while adding new employees to the county plan.