Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Femling pitches Ketchum police plan to county

Plan would decrease number of Ketchum detectives while increasing patrol officers

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling hopes to go before Ketchum police officers soon to discuss the potential transfer of management of the city's law enforcement to the Sheriff's Office.

"Not having communication at that level is not a good thing," Femling told the Blaine County Commission during a presentation Tuesday. "I think that's the next move."

The proposal has been in the works since Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall approached the Sheriff's Office six months ago. The sheriff is already providing law enforcement to Bellevue.

Hall recently said that a contract with the Sheriff's Office is one option being considered to resolve a vacancy at the head of the Ketchum Police Department. Other options include the promotion of interim Ketchum Police Chief Mike McNeil to the position full-time, looking outside the department for a new chief and merging with the Sun Valley Police Department. The last option has not been discussed by officials from the two cities.

Femling's proposal would increase the number of patrol officers on the street in Ketchum from three to six. It would also include a single detective and a continuing staff of non-sworn officers who patrol for things like parking violations.

All of the Ketchum officers would operate under the auspices of a Ketchum Police Department, though they would become a sub-department within the larger county Sheriff's Office.

"We are bringing in their staff," he said.

The proposed officer structure would mean an increase in the number of patrol officers and a decrease in the current number of detectives, Femling said.

"It's our philosophy that more crimes are solved when you've got people on the street," he said.

Femling said additional detectives from the Sheriff's Office could be called upon to help out in a coordinated way in Ketchum whenever necessary.

"That becomes immediately apparent as an opportunity," Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen said.

Femling still does not have an estimated price tag for the conversion. He said some of the additional benefits of the change for Ketchum would be a reduced law enforcement budget and access to the county's state-of-the-art evidence-handling facility.

Ketchum City Administrator Gary Marks previously said that with a potential $600,000 decline in anticipated revenues for fiscal 2009, Ketchum is looking for ways to reduce expenses, and a contract for law enforcement could be one solution.

Jason Kauffman:

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