10:00 PM PST on Tuesday, January 4, 2011

By JAN SEARS
The Press-Enterprise

A City Council discussion of how the next police chief will be selected evolved Tuesday into a debate over whether Redlands should consider contracting with the Sheriff’s Department for police services.

Councilman Jerry Bean, who raised the issue, insisted repeatedly that he was only interested in developing a process for looking at the idea. He said several times that he wasn’t sure he would support such a change, but he added that he had been asked “by at least 15 people” why the city doesn’t look into contracting with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department if it would save money.

He said Redlands pays about $19.5 million a year to operate its own Police Department, while neighboring cities of Highland and Yucaipa pay $6 million to $7 million annually for sheriff’s services.

The city has been struggling with budget deficits for several years and last year laid off about 40 employees. Tuesday’s council agenda included an item that suggested more layoffs as one way to balance the current budget.

Bean said this is a good time to look at contracting, because Chief Jim Bueermann has retired and the department is in transition.

Councilman Jon Harrison seconded Bean’s motion, saying that “as part of the budget conversation, we have to question the way we do everything.”

The other councilmen gave the idea a chilly reception and ultimately rejected it, though they agreed that a budget subcommittee of Bean and Councilman Bob Gardner could pursue it.

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