Saginaw looks at combining sheriff, city police department - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Saginaw looks at combining sheriff, city police department

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SAGINAW (WJRT) -

(08/20/12) - $5 million: that's how much the city of Saginaw could save if the city and county police departments become one.

But this is just one option the city is looking at to save money.

It's still too early to tell what exactly this would mean for Saginaw, or if it's even going to happen.

"We're getting into very hard times and to keep our head above water, we need to make some tough choices," said Dennis Browning, Saginaw's mayor pro tem.

Facing a budget deficit, the city asked the sheriff department to look at how much money could be saved if they policed the city.

The sheriff's proposal would cost the city a little more than $9 million a year and they currently pay $14 million annually for police.

"The sheriff's proposal is simply, he would take entry level officers and that's where you would save your money," Browning said.

Saving money sounds simple, but then it gets complicated.

Officers have a contract with the city, so Saginaw will have to sit down with the union and figure out what that means.

"We have a contract with our officers we need to honor, we have to negotiate with them, bring them to the table, as well as the citizens," Browning said.

And that's what makes so many people uneasy. Last week, officers' families and city residents protested outside city hall, wondering what it means for their families and response times in their community.

As the idea moves forward, the sheriff wants to make it clear: he's not trying to take over the city police department.

"They weren't negotiated numbers, they weren't numbers set forth to negotiate with the city about a possible contract, it was, this is how much it would cost if the sheriff's department policed in the city under the current contracts I have in my office," said William Federspiel, Saginaw County sheriff.

City council meets again on Aug. 27. They're expecting to hear an update from the city manager about this proposal.

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