Menifee may have found a way to increase police coverage while cutting costs — forming its own police department.

As one of 17 cities that contract with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Menifee has looked for ways to address rising costs that increase by about 7 percent per year and could cost the city more than $25 million in the 2023-24 fiscal year, city officials said.

“Our budget is not growing as fast as those charges are,” City Manager Armando Villa said.

To address the rising expense, the Menifee City Council is on the verge of creating its own police department, a decision that could save millions per year, improve response times and increase the amount of time officers are on the streets, a city report states.

The council will discuss forming its own police department at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7, at City Hall, 29714 Haun Road.

Sheriff Stan Sniff and Sheriff’s Legislative Assistant Jessica Gore did not respond to requests for comment. In the past, Sniff has said that rate increases come mainly from higher labor costs.

City officials have recommended the council adopt a resolution that states the city’s wish to create a police force, allows the city to hire a police chief and notify the county, when necessary, of its intent to end the city’s sheriff’s department contract.

The move comes as other Riverside County cities that hire the sheriff’s department have become concerned with rising law enforcement costs.

In 2017, a study showed a group of Riverside County cities could save almost 10 percent as a group by leaving the sheriff’s department and forming a joint powers agency. The plan forecast cost savings for big cities and potential increase for cities such as Menifee.

At a special meeting last month, Villa said the council had three choices: Stay with the sheriff’s department, move forward with a city police department or work with other cities to create a regional police force. Villa said the council preferred creating its own department.

If the council approves, Villa estimated that a Menifee Police Department could be formed in about 18 months.

“This will have a very positive impact because we will have better coverage and be able to localize how we want policing to be done,” he said.

Menifee currently budgets for 140 patrol hours for one day. With its own police force, the city could offer 216 patrol hours a day, according to the city.

If Menifee leaders moves forward with the plan, the cost of starting a department would be roughly $5 million in one-time costs, according to the city. But the move could save millions of dollars over time, officials said.

Projections show the city could save $5 million in the 2019-20 fiscal year and nearly $9 million in police costs in the 2023-24 fiscal year, according to the city.

As Menifee considers its own force, discussions among the other cities about a regional police department continue. It would likely take four to five years before a regional force could be formed.

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