Six of the cities in northeast Johnson County spent Saturday morning exploring how they might collaborate more in providing police services to their constituents, but no definitive next moves were determined by the group. Consolidating departments, while not completely discounted, did not emerge as a goal from the group discussions.
Mission, Fairway, Roeland Park, Westwood, Westwood Hills, and Mission Woods all sent representatives to the session, which included mayors, council members, police and members of the public. The combined population of the six cities is roughly equal to that of Prairie Village. While none of the reports from breakout groups suggested taking consolidation off the table, some concerns were raised about the effects it would have.
“Each community has a distinct identity and they want to keep those,” former Wichita chief Mike Watson reported from the police administration breakout. “People identify with their city and their police departments.” Moving toward more shared services and functional consolidation was a stronger theme coming from the groups.
Northeast Johnson County is “number one at putting cops on the street and covering calls for service,” retired Roeland Park chief Rex Taylor reported from his deployment breakout group. A long list of areas where the cities already collaborate includes backing each other up on calls. They also are part of collaborate groups on training, purchases and dispatch. They rely on other agencies for specialized services, such as bomb squad, divers, and SWAT teams.
The facilitators suggested each city share Saturday’s comments with their councils and public safety committees to determine if and how they would like to proceed with an ongoing discussion. Here is a partial summary of comments coming out of the breakout group reports:
- Any action moving forward requires more community engagement and public involvement
- More data is needed on costs and response times in each department
- An outside consultant would be required to lead a consolidation effort
- Shared services could be expanded and added
- Contracting for services or functional consolidation might be more accepted than full consolidation
- Would there need to be a cut in service to consolidate agencies?
- Need to look at the numbers and determine what people are really after in consolidation
- Command structure and integrating pay and benefits could be a problem
- No single location could house all of the officers now in the six cities
- Concerns that resources would shift west because of the population centers and calls
- Municipal courts could have some consolidation without affecting service
- Consolidating transport services to jail and having a central detention facility could be an advantage
- Reducing the number of officers would reduce the response time