Insisting he already has the most cost-effective police force in DuPage County, Sheriff John Zaruba says he will oppose any effort to scale back his department's patrol division and have municipal authorities police unincorporated areas.
"I won't give consent because it would be too much of a cost to the taxpayers," Zaruba said Tuesday to members of the county board's judicial and public safety committee.
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County board members are reviewing the department's proposed budget for the 2014 fiscal year. Zaruba has requested a spending plan totaling roughly $40.3 million.
As part of the budget discussion, some board members have asked Zaruba to work with municipal leaders to see if money could be saved by having local police departments patrol unincorporated neighborhoods near their boundaries.
"It seems to me that we are at a stage where cost is driving what can and cannot be done by government," said board member Gary Grasso, who suggested a test program to study the issue.
Zaruba said he doesn't need a pilot program to tell him what he already knows: Reducing the size of the sheriff's patrol division and contracting with municipal departments would cost the county more money and result in less service.
In fact, he said, there's nothing wrong with the county's existing system, which has 61 deputies patrolling 105 square miles of unincorporated land. That number doesn't include deputies who are being paid directly by several townships to patrol their neighborhoods.
According to estimates from the sheriff's office, it would cost the county more than $22 million to pay municipal departments to patrol all the unincorporated areas.
In addition, Zaruba said, contracting with municipal departments wouldn't shield the county from potential liability issues.
"I will not take on the additional responsibility knowing that it's not only not cost effective," Zaruba said, "but it would be a detrimental to the taxpayers of DuPage County."
There would be a loss of service, officials say, because the sheriff's patrol division does a great deal of community policing and other crime prevention efforts throughout county. Twenty-one of the patrol deputies are members of various special units, including the bomb squad and SWAT team.