The merging several decades ago of city and county operations at the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center at 11th and New Hampshire has been a great cooperative effort that benefited local residents and taxpayers.
Unfortunately, that same kind of cooperative effort isn’t apparent in the latest plans to examine facility needs for the Lawrence Police Department.
Tuesday night, Lawrence city commissioners authorized the city to seek proposals for a facility needs assessment for the police department. When the needs assessment was proposed earlier this year, City Manager David Corliss suggested that the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the Kansas University Public Safety Office might like to participate in the planning process to see whether expanding joint law enforcement facilities might achieve some operational and financial efficiencies. A memo from the police department presented at Tuesday’s meeting indicated the other law enforcement agencies had been contacted but had shown no interest in taking part in the study.
It would be unfortunate if their decision not to participate is an indication of less cooperation among local law enforcement agencies. These agencies should be looking at more, not less, collaboration. Merging the county ambulance service and the city fire department into Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical has been a positive move. Other counties — notably Riley County, the home of Kansas State University — have successfully merged their county sheriff’s department and city police force into one law enforcement agency. Such efforts seem to almost guarantee a more coordinated effort that can streamline operations and perhaps save taxpayers some money.
City commissioners chose to move ahead alone on plans for expanded facilities for the police department, which already has transferred a large portion of its operations to a city-owned building near Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive. It’s not surprising that local law enforcement services have outgrown their space at the downtown law enforcement center. It would be too bad, however, if the agencies also leave behind the cooperative spirit that was forged when that building was constructed.