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Citrus Heights credited with helping So Cal city launch own police dept

The City of Menifee, in Southern California, is a similarly sized city compared to Citrus Heights. Menifee recently launched its own police force.

Updated July 16, 3:19 p.m.–
Sentinel staff report– At 12:00 a.m. on July 1, a new police department went live in California — taking the first steps that Citrus Heights did 14 years ago when its department went live in 2006.

The City of Menifee, a similarly sized city of 90,000 in Southern California, had been preparing for the moment for several years, sending a team to Citrus Heights last year to learn lessons from how CHPD was formed.

Both cities initially had police services provided by their respective county sheriff’s departments, but opted to form their own departments — with cost savings being a key consideration.

“The decision to form a municipal police department is purely one of financial feasibility and local control,” Menifee City Manager Armando Villa told The Press-Enterprise in an interview this month. He also said the new department will have “a lot more presence on the street,” with 210 combined patrol hours per day on the streets versus 120 hours a day through the sheriff’s contract.

While more patrol hours would normally come with more cost, Villa projects Menifee will save $3.6 million the first year, with a police budget of $14.7 million — instead of $18.3 million through the sheriff’s department. Citrus Heights saw a similar savings of about $2.5 million the first year, with ongoing savings continuing annually — according to Henry Tingle, former Citrus Heights city manager.

In a news release posted on Menifee’s city website last year, Citrus Heights was credited for serving as a model in forming its police department. A Menifee spokesman called the 2019 trip “an excellent opportunity for our team to sit down with our counterparts from the city that ‘wrote the book’ on police department formation.”

The city’s manager also said the trip confirmed that Menifee was “on the right track” in its path toward forming its own police department.

Beyond last year’s meeting with Citrus Heights representatives, Menifee continues to benefit from Citrus Heights. The local department sent over an expert to assist in self-defense and de-escalation training, and a former CHPD lieutenant was selected to join Menifee’s ranks as a captain.

David Gutierrez, who had been with the Citrus Heights Police Department since 2006, was sworn in seven months ago as a police captain for Menifee PD, beginning the work to help lay the foundation of the new police department — which received 2300 applications and hired a team of 77.

“Most cops never get the opportunity to be part of a start-up even once, let alone twice,” said Gutierrez in an interview posted on Menifee PD’s website. “So when this opportunity came up, I immediately knew I wanted to be part of it.”

Mayor Jeff Slowey, who has served on the Citrus Heights City Council since 2003, told The Sentinel the city had voted to form its own police department to control rapidly growing costs as well as get more “personalized” service. He said traffic enforcement also saw a boost once CHPD went live.

“I think it is great [Menifee] chose Citrus Heights as its role model,” said Slowey. “We have known from its inception that the CHPD is special and it’s nice to see others in the state feel the same way.”

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