Cincinnati could be the first major U.S. city to give up control of its police department voluntarily, says the Cincinnati Enquirer. Experts question whether local leaders are rushing it and if it could even work. Negotiations started in earnest last week on a proposal that seemingly popped up out of the blue during tough city budget talks. The city is considering two alternatives: either contract with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office for street patrols or merge the departments.
Only two other major cities – St. Louis and Kansas City – pay for police departments they don’t control, both done long ago against the cities’ will. Elsewhere, mergers have not saved significant amounts and, in fact, cost more initially. Contracting out the patrol officers could save the city money in salaries because the county pays about 20 percent less, but it could cost more in benefits and in the switchover of uniforms, cruisers, and equipment. Former Cincinnati City Manager Jerry Newfarmer, a consultant who helped guide a city/county police merger in Louisville, said a Cincinnati merger could happen as soon as next January.