CLEVELAND - A growing number of cash-strapped counties, townships and cities are combining police forces, going beyond the traditional practice of mutual aid to perform drug investigations and carry out regular patrols.
In Summit County, for example, most of Lakemore`s police force will be absorbed into neighboring Springfield Township`s department by June 1. And the sheriff is in discussions with Akron over possibly sharing equipment, purchasing power and narcotics investigators.
Other agencies are following suit, sharing patrol officers and other duties.
"A stand-alone police department is probably not going to exist too much longer," Akron Police Chief Craig Gilbride said, referring to the cost to communities of maintaining a department. "It only makes sense to combine or collaborate."
On the other side of the state, the Shelby County Sheriff`s Office has partnered with the city of Sidney`s police department in recent months on drug investigations and SWAT operations.
The move comes as declining revenue in the county north of Dayton forced Sheriff Dean Kimpel to lay off 16 employees last month, most of them corrections officers and dispatchers.
Reassignments at the jail reduced the number of deputies on the road, but the county has access to added manpower because of the agreement with Sidney, Kimpel said. Money`s also being saved on training and ammunition, he said.
"A lot of times there`s an interagency rivalry between the sheriffs department and local departments," said Kimpel, who is retired from Sidney`s force and says there haven`t been any problems between deputies and Sidney officers. "But that stuff can be overcome."
In Cuyahoga County, the city of Chagrin Falls provides police protection to the township of the same name. And another partnership in Summit County allows the village of Clinton and Boston Township to receive police service from neighboring villages.
Lakemore will pay Springfield Township at least $400,000 a year for its law enforcement services - about half what the village has been paying for its own force of eight full-time officers and a few part-timers.
"This should have been done years ago," said Tom Hinerman, a Springfield Township police officer.
Cuyahoga County`s newly elected sheriff, Bob Reid, said he`d like to increase his deputies` patrol duties. The sheriff`s office already gives some patrol service to East Cleveland and North Randall on the late shift.
But he says the office`s own budget problems - a projected $2.5 million deficit this year - will make that difficult.