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California City Solutions: Consolidation of Corte Madera, Larkspur, and San Anselmo Police Departments Improves Service, Lowers Crime

January 23, 2015
This story is part of an ongoing series featuring Helen Putnam Award entries.
The 2014 entries are available on the League’s website as a resource for cities in a searchable database called California City Solutions. The Formation of the Central Marin Police Authority project was submitted in 2014 for the CCS Partnership Intergovernmental Collaboration award category.
The Great Recession tested many cities forcing, them to find creative ways to continue providing critical Central-Marin-Police-Motorcycles.jpgservices, such as public safety, with little to no funding available. The Twin Cities Police Authority, which provides police services to the town of Corte Madera and the city of Larkspur since 1980, needed a new police station. During construction in 2009, the authority accepted an offer to share a dispatch location with the San Anselmo Police Department and the result was quite surprising.
By sharing a locatCentral-Marin-Twin-Cities-Police-Patch.pngion of dispatch services, the police chiefs began to discuCentral-Marin-Police-Car.jpgss additional ways that their two agencies could cooperate and meet budget constraints. Both agencies were experiencing budget reductions from the recession and regrettably had to reduce their forces. These reductions lowered service delivery and had raised the possibility of layoffs.
This discussion helped identify a challenging question: Could the two police agencies combine in a way that would produce General Fund savings for the three cities and improve service delivery for their residents?
Additional questions emerged:
  • Corte Madera and Larkspur form one jurisdictional Central-Marin-Police-Honored.jpgarea that is approximately two miles from San Anselmo. Would a combined agency be able to effectively serve noncontiguous territory?
  • Historically, San Anselmo has maintained a small town, community-based approach to policing. Would the authority be able to provide police services in a manner that remained consistent with this approach?
  • The Twin Cities identity is well-established and embraced in Corte Madera and Larkspur — in large part because of the Twin Cities Police Authority. Would the formation of a new agency with San Anselmo hurt the authority’s long-standing relationships with the Twin Cities community?
  • Could consolidating the agencies produce a long-term savings while ensuring that the employees of both agencies had positions with the new agency? 
From 2010-2012, the Twin Cities Police Authority and the San Anselmo Police Department entered into a series of agreements with the agencies sharing resources and integrating some of their operations. Each agreement allowed the agencies to reduce their budgets while maintaining or improving service levels.
Central-Marin-Police-Station-at-Night.jpgIt became apparent that the authority and San Anselmo could potentially share a dispatch center on a more permanent basis, requiring only one supervisor position and lowering the total number of employees. Shortly thereafter, the agencies agreed to form a single investigative unit, lowering the total number of officers assigned to detective duty from five to four, and providing San Anselmo with a supervising detective for the first time in its history. The next agreement combined Special Response and Crisis Negotiation Teams — two programs that had nearly been eliminated because of budget constraints.
The two agencies realized at the start of FY 2011-12 that they had the potential to implement more significant changes and launched two parallel efforts. The first was at the command level, where an agreement was crafted to share captains and an administrative assistant. The agencies also began holding joint command staff meetings. The second was at the ground level, where labor representatives from both agencies began separately discussing ideas on how they could work together. An agreement was soon made to form a single Support Services Division (investigations, evidence, records, dispatch), as well as to jointly operate daily traffic and patrol teams. Each of these agreements allowed the agencies to permanently gain the savings they were already realizing through attrition.Central-Marin-Police-Patch.jpg
By 2012, it was evident that the two agencies were compatible and becoming more reliant on each other and the possibility of consolidation looked more serious. Council members and city managers began meeting early in the year and the San Anselmo police chief announced that his retirement would coincide with a consolidation. The two agencies began drafting a single set of standard operation procedures and a common organizational culture. Labor representatives also formed a joint board to negotiate a transition plan and a new contract that would cover the employees of a combined agency.
The Central Marin Police Authority formed on Jan. 1, 2013 to cover a combined population of approximately 34,300 residents in Corte Madera (9,300), Larkspur (12,500), and San Anselmo (12,500). This new combined police authority resulted in a savings of $1.68 million, based on an agency agreed upon formula reducing General Funds by $774,000 for San Anselmo, $494,000 for Larkspur, and $407,000 for Corte Madera.
The authority has maintained a strong, community-based presence in all three cities by using consolidation to reduce the supervisorial ranks and putting more officers out in the field. Residents were noticing an increase of the number of patrol cars in their neighborhoods. The authority operates the former San Anselmo police station as a substation, helping address operational challenges presented by serving a non-contiguous territory and maintaining its physical connection to the city.
Central-Marin-Police-Car-with-Kids.jpgEvery employee from the Twin Cities Police Authority and San Anselmo Police Department was offered a place in the combined agency, with many employees realizing that the new agency immediately afforded opportunities for promotion and specialty assignments that were less available when the agencies were separate. A new identity that integrated elements of the Twin Cities and San Anselmo logos, uniform and signage was created, merging the previous identities so seamlessly that it took residents months to notice the difference.
The consolidation has allowed the authority to continue providing the full spectrum of police services. Service delivery has improved as well as response times by an average of 1.5 minutes, and overall incidents of crime have declined.
The authority has an excellent reputation in Marin County, and as a result, many smaller county departments are approaching it for advice and assistance with various operational matters. An unanticipated and positive outcome of the consolidation was the development of new agreements to share resources and gain some revenue as a result. At least one of the new discussions has resulted this way with more possibly to come.

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