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Cop Talk Mayors Hear Merger Issue
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An idea that bears more investigation, Riverbank Mayor Virginia Madueno reported on possible merger talks with Oakdale - in terms of police services - at the May 23 Riverbank City Council meeting.

Madueno and Oakdale Mayor Pat Paul met with Oakdale Police representatives on May 18 to hear a presentation on the possibility of combining police services. Both mayors left the meeting with positive hopes of the collaboration and bringing the presentation to future city council meetings.

The City of Riverbank currently contracts with the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department for its law enforcement services. That contract provides for 21 sworn officers in a $3.4 million contract.

The City of Oakdale has been budget plagued, seeing its ranks drop from 28 sworn personnel to now 20 and a drop of $1.2 million in its budget from just three years ago.

"I think it's the best thing to do," said Paul after the meeting. "It would provide for the maximum efficiency for both agencies."

Oakdale Police Detective Brian Shimmel and Sergeant Kerri Redd along with Chief Marty West gave the presentation at the Oakdale Police Department.

The group showed a proposed organizational chart of the two-city combination that instantly illustrated one huge benefit: shared administrative costs. There would only be the need for one police chief, one dispatch center, and one supervisor to oversee personnel administration such as training, evidence retention, budget, and procuring equipment. Other operating costs would be shared as well.

Other notable benefits of the combination both mayors appreciated were that there would be a four-person detective unit to cover both cities investigative needs, more on-duty coverage of patrol officers should an emergency occur, and a stronger presence of officers on the street.

Though both the Oakdale Police Department and Riverbank Police Services have an equal number of patrol personnel, the Oakdale Police Department handled 10,000 more calls for service than Riverbank. Self-initiated enforcement statistics also show that Oakdale Police Department made over twice the number of arrests, three times the amount of vehicle stops, twice the number of citations issued, and three times the number of DUI arrests as Riverbank officers.

"It's a community oriented policing style that results in the prevention of crime," noted Redd.

Chief West has preached that crime prevention belief for keeping crime down. Shimmel, who is also the president of the Oakdale Police Officers Association, said pursing the merger was not only favorable because laid-off experienced officers would be coming back to work, but that the department would be gaining resources and have increased lateral movement for the personnel by the expansion that could contribute to an increased morale.

Madueno said she walked away from the meeting "very, very impressed."

She said the presentation gave her an insight and detail to the level of police service provided by the Oakdale Police Department.

"I left with a good impression of what they do and what they can provide," said Madueno. "One of the things that stood out was their customer service level and their response times."

Madueno commented that she has received calls from unhappy Riverbank citizens that requested a police response only to be referred to make an Internet report.

Madueno said that she would be proposing continued dialogue on the topic with the possibility of joint city council study sessions and town hall meetings to receive public input.