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Oscar Ortiz

American Canyon Police Chief Oscar Ortiz

American Canyon is sticking with the Napa County Sheriff’s Office to provide law enforcement through at least June 30, 2022.

With the existing contract to expire in June, the City Council on Tuesday approved the latest three-year agreement. American Canyon will pay the Sheriff’s Office $6.75 million in 2019-20, $6.95 million in 2020-21 and $7.19 million in 2021-22.

“It’s one of the very special relationships we have,” City Manager Jason Holley said. “It’s one of the things that makes this city work.”

People on the street might not even notice that the Sheriff’s Office is the law enforcement provider. Officers patrol the city in cars emblazoned “Police American Canyon.” They wear “police” patches.

One unique thing about the relationship is how much effort is put into creating the American Canyon Police Department, Holley said. The city provides uniforms, police cars and a station.

The Sheriff’s Department provides a police chief – presently Oscar Ortiz—four sergeants and 19 sworn officers. That includes a community resources officer, two school resource officers, two motor officers and two officers who work with police dogs.

Plus, the city receives such Sheriff’s Office services as the investigation bureau, search-and-rescue, SWAT and major crimes task force.

American Canyon could create its own locally managed police department, a city report said. But the City Council didn’t consider going that route. It will continue an arrangement with the Sheriff’s Office that began when the city incorporated in 1992.

“It’s high-level service,” Mayor Leon Garcia said. “We very much appreciate it.”

The city is seeing a bump in the price tag. The $6.75 million cost for the initial year on the new contract is an 8.7 percent increase over the current year’s cost of $6.21 million.

A city report said this is a “true up” at the end of the previous contract because of salary and benefit cost increases. Increases in the new contract, in contrast, are 3 percent to 3.5 percent annually, which is the expected inflation rate.

Holley said that the League of California Cities reports that most cities spend 30 percent to 45 percent of their general fund budget on law enforcement. American Canyon, even with the cost increase, will likely spend about 33 percent.

“We’re pretty much on the low end of the range of our peer cities,” Holley said. “And not all of them have all of the resources we do in the Napa Sheriff’s Office at a drop of the hat, so it’s a very, very cost-effective model for us.”

Good feelings about the arrangement seem to be mutual.

“This community supports the officers and the officers absolutely love it,” Sheriff John Robertson told the City Council.

The contract comes with option years at $7.40 million for 2022-23 and $7.63 million for 2023-24. The agreement will automatically be renewed for the two additional years unless a party provides a notice of non-renewal.

American Canyon reported having 533 violent crimes and property crimes in 2018, the lowest total in seven years, according to the city’s Police Department. That figure combines homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft. The total was 584 in 2017 and 773 in 2012.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.