The Half Moon Bay City Council has narrowly approved a two-year extension with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office for city policing services, despite some councilmembers’ concerns about keeping the status quo instead of pursuing immediate policing reforms.
“I am happy with the two-year agreement. It also gives the Sheriff’s Office a vote of confidence that we believe that they will incorporate some of our suggestions,” Councilmember Deborah Penrose said.
The council voted 3-2 during its Sept. 21 meeting to send a letter requesting a two-year extension to the Sheriff’s Office. Mayor Robert Brownstone and councilmembers Joaquin Jimenez and Penrose voted yes, while Vice Mayor Debbie Ruddock and Councilmember Harvey Rarback voted no. The request still requires approval from the sheriff. Under this option, the agreement would be extended through June 30, 2024. The current deal ends June 30, 2022, and required the city to notify the Sheriff’s Office in writing by Sept. 30 of its decision. Half Moon Bay could also have exercised a three-year agreement or amended it to be at will with no fixed term.
The city can still ask for changes in police service no matter what option it picked, as directed by the City Council through the Public Safety Work Plan, a staff report said. The city wants to work with the sheriff to improve community policing, training and mental health responses and incorporate it into a contract. These types of changes can be requested and negotiated at any time.
Jimenez and Rarback have been vocal about police reform and changes to policies to prevent deaths like the officer-involved shooting of Sandra Harmon, who was killed by sheriff’s deputies in 2020 at 845 Main St. after firing at one of the deputies with a shotgun. The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office ruled the shooting was justified. In May, the two authored the Jimenez-Rarback Report on Policing and Public Safety, calling for a new police chief to provide oversight over the Sheriff’s Office. It called for a new chief taking office no later than the end of 2021. The chief would have led negotiations with the Sheriff’s Office and helped create a Public Safety Department by spring 2022. San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos said his office would not participate in the model discussed in the report, with no Sheriff’s Office personnel under the supervision or management of a proposed police chief.
Rarback supported the option of having a contract with no fixed terms because it gives the city flexibility to negotiate a better contract at any point with the Sheriff’s Office. He is vehemently against many terms of the agreement and wants change.
“It might be in the future that we would be in a better position to negotiate with either Sheriff Bolanos or his successor,” Rarback said.
Jimenez’s main focus was on working with a law enforcement agency that could be the Sheriff’s Office or another agency to address community needs. He wanted common ground with the Sheriff’s Office to better address public safety and was open to any contract option, although he initially suggested it have no fixed years.
“It’s not about terminating a contract. It’s about actually working with any providers,” Jimenez said.
The city first contracted with the Sheriff’s Office in 2011 to provide services and personnel to help with costs savings and increase services and efficiency. The city has said the broader services had benefited the community and residents of Half Moon Bay.
However, Brownstone and Ruddock expressed interest in a three-year contract during the meeting discussion. Since police reform discussions began, both have been hesitant to start immediate and broad changes like a new police chief and department. Brownstone noted the city can terminate the deal at any time and would help keep costs at a fixed price. Ruddock agreed and wanted to lock down financially stable costs and was against the city returning to having its own police department.
“I like the idea of having a three-year term of contractual stability no matter how much other costs might go up because that’s a fairly expensive contract,” Brownstone said.
“We are talking about the possibility of terminating, with the backstop being our own police future or contracting with somebody else’s police force. I don’t see that as an option at all,” Ruddock said.
The wide range of opinions and discussion about which contract option to choose led to Brownstone calling for a motion to approve a two-year contract extension, which was approved.
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