Dane County’s finance committee will review a contract to provide sheriff’s office services in the village of Brooklyn — located 20 miles south of Madison, between Oregon and Evansville — after the community dissolved its own police department earlier this month.
The proposed contract stipulates that one Dane County deputy would provide police services 37.5 hours per week within village boundaries starting March 6 at a cost to the village of approximately $141,000 per year.
In a statement following its Feb. 1 vote, the village board said that discontinuing the police department was necessary to minimize the village’s liability.
“Because the village faced and resolved a recent lawsuit over alleged Brooklyn Police Department wrongdoing as well as unresolved Brooklyn PD personnel issues and complaints, the village’s future potential liability needs to be minimized to safeguard the taxpayers against significant future costs,” the statement said. “By contracting with (the Dane County Sheriff’s Office), the village of Brooklyn’s potential liability stemming from policing becomes zero.”
According to the Oregon Observer, this rationale was not discussed during the meeting in which the board voted 5-2 to abolish its police department effective March 5. The decision came as a surprise to police department staff, according to the newspaper.
Under the proposed contract, the agreement would create one full-time deputy sheriff position in the 2021 budget to replace the position that will be assigned to the village located on the border of Dane and Green counties south of Madison.
“When we contract with a new municipality, they determine how many hours of coverage they want and are in turn billed for those hours,” Dane County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Elise Schaffer said in an email. “So essentially we are adding a position based on that contract and would not draw from our current staffing levels.”
Dane County currently contracts with six other villages: Black Earth, Cambridge, Deerfield, Dane, Mazomanie and Windsor; and two towns: Middleton and Cottage Grove.
Dane County’s Personnel & Finance Committee is expected to review the contract, which has already received a nod from the Public Protection & Judiciary committee, at its 5:30 p.m. meeting Feb. 22.
In its letter to residents, the village board said the county’s law enforcement services would be a “value added product” to the community. The board identified a number of positions and organizations need to provide a “level of service within a small municipality to the degree necessary in current times.”
Currently, the Brooklyn Police Department consists of the chief of police and a staff of three. The village considered contracting with the county in 2017 after then-chief Harry Barger retired but decided to maintain its police department at the time, according to the Oregon Observer.
“In summary, the village is protected from any potential future liability arising from police wrongdoing and gains all of the resources of a large and experienced law enforcement agency, while maintaining local control and local identity,” the statement said. “Our residences will be well served by the trained and experienced deputies who will serve our community.”
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