Cloverdale city council

Small agencies agree to help one another if Sheriff’s Office intervention isn’t needed 

During the July 24 meeting of the Cloverdale City Council, the council approved the creation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) for services up to $20,000. The MOU outlines a formal agreement between the city and the SCSO should Cloverdale need assistance with an investigation.

As part of the agreement, the city has put $20,000 aside in the General Fund to be used in case the SCSO provides their services to the city.

The decision to enter into an MOU comes after the city was charged $20,794 following an 2018 investigation into an apparent kidnapping, which was later discovered to be a homicide.

“It was determined that a great deal of resources beyond the department’s capability would be necessary to properly and expeditiously investigate the incident,” reads the consent calendar item as approved by the council. “The Cloverdale Police Department immediately requested assistance from the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department to lead the investigation. It was at this time that the Sheriff’s Department representatives informed the city that they would be open to leading the investigation, but the city would be responsible for paying for their services.”

When the Sheriff’s Office provides services to outside agencies, new policy mandates they go through a cost recovery process. As such, setting aside the $20,000 ensures that, should they need the Sheriff’s Office to assist with an investigation, the city has money to pay for the services that are provided.

In cases where the Cloverdale Police Department needs assistance that doesn’t necessitate help from the SCSO, smaller agencies in the county have agreed to band together.

“One of the other items that’s associated with this is the small agencies,” said Robert Stewart, who was serving as interim police chief at the time of the council meeting. “The police chiefs did meet on several occasions — we agreed to provide services to each other, which is a real benefit if we need extra bodies or expertise in a certain area they have, then we just make a call to the agencies and they roll with their people. That would avoid having to pay the sheriff’s department for certain services, but there are, in reality, things that small agencies can’t do and large agencies can.”

“The intention of this document, I think, is to give us some ability to control costs over unforeseen investigations that may occur within our city limits,” Councilmember Jason Turner said. “While I don’t presently have any disagreements with that, I would like to make sure we keep a pulse on it.”

Prior to the approval of the consent calendar item, both Turner and Councilmember Marta Cruz expressed a desire to recognize the MOU as a moving document that is subject to change.

While the MOU is ongoing, the city will be bringing back the topic during the yearly budgeting process to make sure there’s money in the coffers for potential expenditures should they use SCSO’s investigative resources.

“It’s not like we have to give them the $20,000,” Stewart said. “If we utilize their services, we’ll monitor that amount and make sure we won’t go over it without having further approval.”

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