Morro Bay may disband its police department

July 20, 2016

Morro Bay Police Department

The city of Morro Bay is considering disbanding its police department and contracting out law enforcement duties to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office. City council members will discuss the possibility at an Aug. 9 meeting, according to a public memorandum circulated by City Manager David Buckingham.

David Buckingham

David Buckingham

Buckingham’s memorandum cites a suggestion made by a consulting firm as reason for the city to consider contracting out its police services. The memorandum does not state the city is hoping to cut costs, but it is widely believed that saving money would be the primary motive for disbanding the police department.

Last year, Morro Bay officials commissioned a study of the city’s organization, management process and fiscal situation. Consulting firm Management Partners completed the study in May 2015 and delivered 65 recommendations to the city. One of Management Partners’ recommendations was to obtain a proposal from the county sheriff’s office for providing law enforcement services to the city.

In November, the council decided to wait until 2017 to formally consider contracting out its police duties. However, Morro Bay’s police commander recently left the department, and Chief Amy Christie is expected to take over as Pacific Grove’s top cop on Aug. 16.

Following the announced departures, the city council opted to expedite a discussion on contracting out law enforcement services. At its Aug. 9 meeting, the council is expected to decide whether the city should make preparations for requesting a proposal from the sheriff’s office. City officials have already initiated talks with the sheriff’s office, according to Buckingham’s memorandum.

In the case Morro Bay proceeds with contracting out law enforcement duties, the city has set parameters for proposals it will consider. City officials say there must be no reduction in response time or in the number of sworn patrol officers on shift.

The parameters also state the sheriff’s office would have to maintain a Morro Bay force that would be based at the city’s current police station. That unit would also have to look and feel, as much as possible, like the existing police department. The deputies would have to drive Morro Bay police vehicles and have other Morro Bay insignia.

Additionally, the contract must include a set term and an opt-out provision that would allow the city to restore its police department, according to the parameters.

City officials will take input from the public before and during the Aug. 9 council meeting. The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. at the Morro Bay veterans’ hall.


I happen to know certain things about this situation and I’m willing to answer questions about this topic…so ask away


Why wasn’t someone from within the police department promoted to be the interim chief? How much is the new interim chief being paid monthly? Is it true that he has had problems in other cities?


There is more than qualified personnel within the PD that could easily be promoted to interim chief. As of now, I believe there is a Sgt. who is acting commander and is carrying the difficult task of motivating his officers not to leave to other departments. The running rate for an interim chief depends on the city. I believe the last interim chief prior to Christey, was making over 10,000 a month and its rumored the city was paying for his rental home in MB. So total was approximately 13,000 a month. I researched the problems you speak of and its documented there has been issues but I wouldn’t hold much stock into it.


Thanks for the reply. Did one of the problems concerning the interim chief that Buckingham and the City Council have hire cost another city $6,000,000 in settlement money for a lawsuit?


Article I found online to answer your question…I believe this was many years ago but not sure…

Buckingham was also hired by another city and paid out a large sum of money to leave once they changed their mind about him being city mgr.

Public Eye

Chief Concerns

Former Los Gatos Police Chief Larry Todd is in hot water over a missing person’s case again–for the third time in his career–not far from the post he left a year ago. And this time, the embittered family of the victim is calling for his resignation. Eyewatchers may recall that Todd retired last July from Los Gatos amid criticism of shoddy police work and dismissive treatment toward family members in the unsolved case of Jeanine Harms, (“In Harm’s Way,” Mar. 20). Todd’s latest trouble started in April when he accepted an interim chief’s gig with the city of Hollister for $12,000 per month, and another missing person’s case landed in his lap. On June 10, the family of 73-year-old Ralph Santos reported their “Pops” missing hours after he failed to pick up one of his grandkids. In an eerie déjà vu to the Harms case, family attorney Greg Laforge says Todd didn’t take the Santos family seriously, assigned minimal personnel to the case (a beat cop who’d been a detective for only three days) and just generally “kept them out of the loop.” More importantly, he adds, the Todd-led Hollister cops were so confident of their thesis that the old man was a runaway they didn’t even put out a stolen-vehicle report on Santos’ red 2002 Kia to alert other police agencies throughout the state. A full week after Santos’ disappearance, police detective David Godoy was still telling the local paper, the Hollister Freelance, “This is a great misunderstanding,” and that the old man had probably disappeared of his own free will. But on June 19, two days later, Santos was found murdered in a mustard field at the edge of town, his car nowhere in sight. Fueling charges of incompetence by the family–and attorney LaForge–is the fact that it still took the police more than a week after Santos was found dead to issue a stolen-vehicle report. When the agency finally did, the Kia was found and recovered within 24 hours–in Stockton, being driven by Eliseo Rojas, 24, who led police to Eusebio Ramos, 30. The pair, who are farmworkers, have been charged with murdering Santos, discarding his body and stealing his car and personal property. LaForge says city officials are “circling the wagons,” in fear of a lawsuit from the Santos clan. “This has nothing to do with a lawsuit,” he says. “These people have been mistreated since day one in this investigation. They want some answers.” Todd, he adds, only met with the family after arrests were made. … This latest missing person’s imbroglio is the third strike for Todd. As recounted in Metro’s cover story “In Harm’s Way” (March 20), in addition to the Harms case, Todd’s troubles date back to his tenure in West Covina, where he shared responsibility in a missing-person/botched-ransom case that resulted in a 10-year-old boy being killed and a $6 million settlement against the city. Todd’s contract with Hollister was supposed to last until the end of September, but an insider tells Eye that the city may try to hire its permanent chief sooner rather than later, just to get the controversal Todd out the door.


Thanks again. Sounds like another great decision and possiblity to bankrupt the City. Another question: I’ve heard that there is petition to tell the council that the citizens aren’t interested in having the Morro Bay Police Department contracted out to the Sheriff’s Department. Where can one find this petition and sign it?


I guess maybe they should have rebuilt that power plant…no money, no services.


The next time you see any of the people who lobbied so hard to not have the power plant remodel take place be sure and thank them for the mess they created. If the remodel had taken place, the City of Morro Bay would be getting a guaranteed $2.25 million dollars per year in guaranteed income. Many of the same people elected this current city council. We have no one to blame but ourselves for letting this happen to a once thriving community.


wait, a plant closes down and the budget takes a big hit?? wow hope that doesn’t happen again, in say the next 8 or 9 years.


We need to get rid of the two biggest problems in MB,irons and buckingham,neither one of them has an idea of what they are doing and are a disgrace to the city,I attended several of the sewer plant meetings and these two hacks show up dressed like tourists one in flip flops and board shorts hanging out by the door so he could make an escape if things got ugly and the other hack in flip flops hiding in the back corner thinking no one sees him.

Ham has been seen in city hall barefoot and bike shorts strolling around the office like King Farouque,these two are lost.


Buckingham is a total control freak with a personal agenda


The city has asked the sheriff’s department in the past on two occassions for bid proposals and both times the sheriff’ services were MORE expensive than what they currently paying. Deputies make more than MBPD and that is why so many of their officers have left and gone to work for the sheriff.

Unless the city is willing to accept less service or the sheriff fudges on his math, there isn’t anyway this will work.

If the sheriff gives Morro Bay a sweetheart deal it will be at the cost of the county residents.

The Board of Supervisors needs to watch this like a hawk if the idea gets off the ground. The BOS really needs to look out for the county residents on this one; if a “city” deputy gets hurt will the sheriff rob us of a “county” deputy and put them in the city to fullfill the terms of the contract?

Lots of questions to be answered and CCN better stay on top of this story!


Only 25% of employees leaving?In SLO it’s more like 50%. Morro Bay must still be a good place to work.


OOps, was supposed to reply to MB business owner below.


Jamie Iron’s wife is the Human Resources Director in SLO. This City Council and City Manager are just getting started.


MB business owner, they did manage to change the city logo to a cartoon prominently featuring a sail boat – super appropriate for a fishing village – does that count?

mb business owner

christine johnson, jamie irons and smuckler have managed to ruin a once wonderful, loving place to live, lets look at the hit parade.

irons lobbies the coastal commission after a rushed meeting to urge denial of a 34 million sewer project, now the running cost is 145 million and still no progress on a new plant – how do you suppose we are going to afford this?.

christine johnson, jamie irons and smuckler fire the attorney and manager and hire an attorney that is paid 400K per year as opposed to the 189K for the former and a manager who has no idea how to run a city, create positive working environment or hold on to employees.

multiple municipal codes are ignored and/or violated to do the bidding of christine johnson, jamie irons and smuckler.

employees are flooding out of the city, up to 25% of the work force.

now the PD will be contracted out, we will get less service for more money – we’ve explored this before. however, are there even any personnel left at the PD?

soon the FD will go to cal fire

when you decide who to vote for in November, just ask the question, “what projects or positive accomplishments has christine johnson, jamie irons and smuckler achieved”? the correct answer is “0”.


I think we should lay off the City Council and the City Manager and keep the Morro Bay Police Department.


A large part of the city manager’s job is managing the police department. If the PD is outsourced then the City Manager needs to have his pay reduced proportionately.


Are you seriously suggesting that public employees be held financially accountable for their job performance?! PSHAH!