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Cornelius, sheriffs office mull merger

Contract for services under discussion; Drake wants decision soon


In the words of Cornelius City Manager Rob Drake and interim Police Chief Ken Summers, the Cornelius Police Department is “undergoing a period of great upheaval” and has been working “to rectify numerous deficiencies.”

Against this backdrop, Mayor Jef Dalin and members of the Cornelius City Council announced May 6 that the city is considering whether to contract with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office for its law enforcement services.

Sheriff Pat Garrett came to Monday’s council meeting to discuss the issue as the two entities began exploring whether a partnership might be mutually beneficial.

Dalin said the discussion was the equivalent of a “first date.”

“We’re nowhere near the proposal point yet,” Dalin said. “We are exploring ideas and starting a dialogue about what the limitations are and what the benefits are.”

Dalin said he wants to bring the public into the conversation at the beginning.

“We’ll get, hopefully, a ton of feedback,” Dalin said.

Drake said he met with the Cornelius Police Department’s officers and staff as well as the local police advisory board Monday morning so they would not be caught by surprise.

Garrett told the council he welcomed the opportunity to discuss the concept.

“This is a conversation worth having for two reasons,” Garrett said. “We each have strengths that a closer partnership could maximize. You have local officers with familiarity with the community, and that’s an asset. We have depth of bench and can offer advantages with recruiting, training, equipment, policy and accountability.”

Garrett also noted there would be public benefits to having the officers with the Cornelius Police Department work directly with sheriff's deputies.

“We do our best work when we work closer together,” Garrett explained. “The more you train together and brief together, that adds value and safety, and reduces stress. It’s an advantage for both groups.”

With many operational and financial issues to consider, Garrett suggested setting up a working group of representatives from Cornelius, the Sheriff’s Office and Washington County.

Drake said he didn't want a drawn-out process.

“We need to craft a work plan by summer or early fall for a ‘go/no go’ decision,” he said.




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