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Golden Valley Turns To Contractors To Fill Policing Gaps

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  • Golden Valley Turns To Contractors To Fill Policing Gaps

    I wonder what precisely they are having private security do for the city.

    Golden Valley turns to contractors to fill policing gaps

    Hennepin County deputies and a private security firm are working alongside remaining officers.
    By Josie Albertson-Grove Star Tribune

    MARCH 1, 2023 — 5:20PM

    JEFF WHEELER, STAR TRIBUNE FILE Virgil Green applauded the members of the Golden Valley Police and Fire Departments as they gathered with him for a photo after he was sworn in as the new police chief of Golden Valley in September.

    As the Golden Valley Police Department tries to fill vacancies in its ranks, Hennepin County Sheriff's deputies have accounted for a growing proportion of officers' shifts — so far costing the city more than $60,000.

    Like many police departments, the city has seen high turnover since 2020, but its hiring difficulty has stood out in the Twin Cities metro. In February, Golden Valley officials said just eight sworn officers were responding to emergency calls and eight unarmed "community service officers" were handling less-urgent matters, such as parking complaints and theft reports. The department is budgeted for 31 officers..

    The police union that represents Golden Valley officers, Law Enforcement Labor Services, has declared the city's police ranks "dangerously low." Union leaders have blamed the staffing shortage on reform efforts that they say are going too far.

    Turnover and attrition have been growing problems for Golden Valley since at least 2018, with turnover rising to its highest levels in 2021 and 2022, according to city data. In August, the City Council approved a contract with Hennepin County to use deputies to cover shifts, and sheriff's deputies have been policing the city since October.

    In the last three months of 2022, deputies covered 33 shifts for Golden Valley police, resulting in 329 work hours, said Maj. Patrick Enderlein of the Sheriff's Office. In the first six weeks of 2023, Enderlein said, deputies had already covered 28 shifts totaling 289 hours.

    The Sheriff's Office's hourly rates range from $51.56 for a deputy to as much as $116.11 for a captain working overtime. As of last week, Enderlein said the services had cost Golden Valley $60,273.

    Golden Valley officers this year earn from $36.39 to $48.48 hourly under a new contract; new officers are eligible for up to $10,000 in bonuses.

    "Staff is always mindful of the budget set forth by the City Council," Police Chief Virgil Green said in an email. "The services provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office have been cost-effective and within the City's budget."

    A private security firm, Bloomington-based BelCom, occasionally helps Golden Valley police detectives with investigations after the council approved a contract for those services in August at $85 per hour.

    BelCom owner Doug Belton declined to specify how much of that was paid to officers. But he said that while all BelCom investigators are former police officers, none served with the Golden Valley department.

    Belton said investigators' hours have been "sporadic" since the contract was signed and have included such services as writing reports or interviewing witnesses.

    He said Golden Valley is the only department where his investigators are working. But Belton said that as departments across the state have more trouble hiring officers, heplans to shop his services more broadly.

    The extra help in Golden Valley has kept police response times from rising.

    Data the Police Department publishes weekly showed that officers have taken an average of 6.5 minutes to respond to calls so far in 2023 — about the same as in 2021, but faster than for most of 2022.

    Response times to "priority 1" calls, a broad category encompassing incidents from assaults to allergic reactions, was just more than four minutes last week. That compares with just more than three minutes in June 2020, though the response time has varied week to week.

    Green said the department has been slower to respond to "priority 4" calls — the lowest priority calls that include reports of roadkill and abandoned cars — but that overall response times have not suffered.

    The department's "response times continue to fall well within previous response time data," Green said in an email, "and we will continue to track all response times to ensure we are providing the highest level of service to the community."

  • #2
    I can see some difficulties here; you're basically privatising certain aspects of law enforcement. Hopefully there are metrics and guidelines; otherwise, if I were a defense attorney my first tactic would be to ask for evidence to be suppressed on the basis that the private company gathered it incorrectly.