Ads by Fight Not Fear, the campaign to consolidate law enforcement in Baton Rouge, were on heavy rotation during the weeks leading up to the November election for mayor-president and metro council members.
Councilman Joel Boè has taken up the cause and says he plans to discuss a potential merger of the parish and city police departments at the council’s first meeting of the year on Jan. 9.
Many cities across the nation have consolidated law enforcement, and Las Vegas, NV, is one of them.
The Las Vegas City Police and the Clark County Sheriff’s Department merged to create the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police in 1973. But while the idea to consolidate the police forces in Baton Rouge has remained largely a local issue, LVPD Assistant Sheriff Raymond Flynn explains that talks about consolidation in Vegas began in the state legislature.
FLYNN: What prompted consolidation was a feeling that the city and county governments here were being inefficient. They were side by side, multiple duplications of effort and the state legislature forced discussions to take place between the various entities. What was interesting, the two police departments were the only ones that met more than one time. And the police department and the sheriff’s department at the time felt that it would be a heck of alot more efficient to merge those agencies, to join the resources and to create a better-functioning police department.
Some major concerns with consolidation here in Baton Rouge include the fact that the Parish Sheriff’s Office and city police have two separate pension systems, and that the city police chief is appointed while the parish sheriff is elected.
Pensions were never an issue in the Vegas merger since there is only one pension system for all public employees in Nevada. And Flynn said the consolidated department just adopted whichever agency’s plan had the higher salaries and benefits.
Choosing who oversaw the Las Vegas Metropolitan police department was handled like this:
FLYNN: By state law the sheriff was not only elected but also became the chief executive officer for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. An interesting side note is, as the sheriff, the person that’s elected is also the sheriff of the entire county because we’ve got about four other municipalities that are within our county. They have their own police departments but the sheriff is still the sheriff for those jurisdictions. And, you know, I’ve worked for both appointed chiefs as well as sheriffs and I think it’s a better system where the people choose who their police executive’s going to be.
But Flynn said despite the executive staffs of both the city and county police departments being pro-merger, actually bringing the two departments together was a different story.
FLYNN: The city police and the county sheriff’s had separate cultures and they were very proud agencies. So a lot of the officers, even though it was a merged agency, identified themselves as either city cops or deputy sheriffs up until the day they retired.
Flynn said, ultimately, the merger lead to a more efficient organization.
FLYNN: You know the jurisdiction was literally split by a major road running down the middle of the valley and for whatever reason, and you know its back in the 1970s there was not a lot of communication between those two entities. There’d be crime happening on one side of the border and the officers on the other side didn’t know about it. And criminals know no jurisdictional lines.
As successful as the now 30-year-older merger has been for Las Vegas, Flynn said progressive policing should get the majority of the credit for crime drops throughout the country.