SW Idaho city to end contract with sheriff

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MIDDLETON, Idaho (AP) — The southwest Idaho city of Middleton has decided to end its law enforcement contract for enhanced services with the Canyon County Sheriff's Office and create a city police department.

"I believe city residents can save more than $200,000 over four years rather than continuing the contract with Canyon County," Middleton Mayor Darin Taylor told the Idaho Statesman (http://bit.ly/1smrMHX) in a story on Tuesday.

The Middleton City Council on Sept. 17 opted to end the $293,000 contract at the start of October.

Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue said the city's plan is a bad decision.

"People really like seeing those patrol cars right there in their town," Donahue said. "That police presence really deters crime."

The city said it plans to rely on the taxpayer-funded services the sheriff's office provides for unincorporated areas while it builds its own police force. City officials also said they will contract with Nampa police for some services.

Donahue said city leaders don't appreciate that the sheriff's office has been providing services to the city similar to a community police department, including enhanced traffic enforcement.

Taylor said city leaders didn't receive answers from the sheriff about why the cost was going to increase by about $33,000 a year. He said city leaders hope to hire a police chief this year, with the person starting in January at an annual salary of $60,000 to $65,000.

Two more officers would be hired in the fall of 2015, and two more the following year, putting five members on the Middleton Police Department.

Nampa police, Taylor said, could supplement police coverage to cover school zones during peak hours and help with special events, such as Middleton's Fourth of July parade. Details haven't been worked out, but he said one estimate put costs at about $65 an hour.

Donahue declined to offer an estimate when Taylor asked what the county would charge.

"Law enforcement is too important, what we do is too important to kind of do it on a part-time basis," Donahue said.

Middleton expects to pay about $150,000 to $200,000 for police services in the coming fiscal year, Taylor said.

Donahue said he doesn't expect to have to cut any jobs despite losing about $293,000 with Middleton's departure. Deputies who concentrate on Middleton will be assigned to different areas, he said.

"We'll still respond to 911 calls and anything that comes in to dispatch," Donahue said. "But those response times are going to increase significantly."

He estimated response times would go from a couple minutes now to up to 20 minutes, depending on where a deputy happens to be patrolling.


Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com

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