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Happy New Year, Matt:

Who or what determines whether a city is protected and served by police or by sheriffs?

-- Ann Marie Murphy, the net

See, the sheriff's department has this dandy crime-fighting package that includes a helicopter, forensic laboratory services-- all kinds of goodies that make a heck of a sales presentation. So say you're the city of Del Mar. The only thing you're worried about is collecting parking fees from visitors. You really don't want to start up your own police department for traffic control or crime prevention. It's expensive and not very glamorous, so you go to the sheriff's department and you sign a contract with them to provide these services for a certain price, and you can go back to collecting parking fees on holidays. Deputy vs. policeman is generally a matter of dollars. A city can usually get more services from the sheriff's office than they can provide for themselves at the same price. Only nine cities in the county have their own police forces. The sheriff's department covers the remaining 4200 square miles of turf.

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