The city of Pontiac has announced it intends to disband its own police force in favor of contracting out with the Oakland County Sheriff, an idea first recommended by the Mackinac Center in 2006.
The Detroit News today is reporting today that the transition to Oakland County policing could occur as early as December. The city is expected to save $2 million annually. This is far from the first instance of a municipality contracting with a county Sheriff for police services. Several cities in Oakland County already do, and the Macomb city of Mt. Clemens told the Mackinac Center that doing so kept the city from dire financial straits.
The Mackinac Center dedicated an entire issue of the Michigan Privatization Report in 2006 to privatization ideas for the city of Pontiac. The report questioned whether or not the city could remain a "going concern" due to its precarious finances. After publication, the state appointed an emergency financial manager to manage city operations in March 2009.
The ideas in the Pontiac-themed issue of MPR included contracting out city departments like the city's fire department and department of public works, and selling assets like parking lots, the city's golf course and the Pontiac Silverdome (which the city did in November 2009).
Many such ideas advanced by the Mackinac Center are often initially met by opposition and years later adopted, adapted or at least seriously discussed by government officials as viable reforms. If only Pontiac had embraced this one reform four years ago when we had recommended it, the city might have already enjoyed as much as $6 million in savings.
It is unfortunate that it often takes financial or other crises to get public officials to adopt sound policies, but by contracting with the county to provide police services, the city of Pontiac will get a step closer to fiscal solvency.