A response to Mr. Harris about Mammoth Police Department


I would like to respond to some of the comments made by Jean Harris in his letter that was published in the Oct. 19 issue of the Mammoth Times.

Mr. Harris believes that the Police Department is “bloated” and that crime will not increase if the department loses 46 percent of its officers.

I don’t know what his law enforcement expertise is, but my opinion that we are understaffed with 17 sworn officers is shared by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training which just completed a management audit of the Police Department and determined that we should not reduce our size. 

Instead, the MLPD should grow to 25 sworn personnel. 

My opinion is also shared by Sheriff Rick Scholl, Fire Chief Brent Harper, District Attorney Tim Kendall, Bishop Chief Chris Carter, and former Bishop Chief Kathleen Sheehan—all of whom believe the MLPD should not be reduced in size. 

I believe these professionals have the collective wisdom, experience, and expertise to make a reasonable opinion on the level of staffing needed to police a town like Mammoth Lakes.

In answer to Mr. Harris’ question about how many towns the size of Mammoth Lakes have their own police department, the answer is that there are many. 

There are more than 400 police departments in California, and many of them are the size of Mammoth or smaller. 

The nearest police department to Mammoth Lakes is Bishop, which is smaller than the MLPD. 

The ski towns of South Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and Mount Shasta all have police departments, too.

The Town of Big Bear Lake, which is the only incorporated town in the Big Bear Valley, contracts with the San Bernardino Sheriff for police service. 

In Colorado, the ski resorts of Aspen, Breckenridge, Vail, and Telluride, all of which have smaller populations, have their own police departments.   

All of these police departments have more police personnel per capita than Mammoth Lakes with the exception of Truckee, which has slightly fewer.

Mr. Harris is correct that there are also many cities that contract with their local sheriff for law enforcement. 

Contracting for law enforcement is a viable option that many cities throughout the state use. 

There are 88 incorporated cities in Los Angeles County, and 41 of them contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff. 

At the Town Council meeting Oct. 3, I recommended that the council seek a proposal from Mono County for providing police services to the town. 

But it is not as simple as simply “purchasing” the number of officers (deputies) the town wants. 

The Sheriff makes the final determination on the minimum number of personnel, including supervision, which must be contracted. 

Sheriff Scholl has gone on record as saying the town should not have any fewer law enforcement personnel than it does now. 

A contract with the sheriff would reduce some administrative costs and may save the town some money. 

We don’t know the cost of a contract and  I agree with Mr. Harris that this should be examined. That’s why I recommended that a proposal be sought so the Town Council would be able to compare any savings against the level of service they would receive.  

Dan Watson,

Chief of Police

Mammoth Lakes