Updated information: According to the WPOA archives, when Sheriff Smith took over the office there were 443 sworn officers. Today, the Sheriff’s website indicates there are 395 sworn officers. That is a reduction of 9% in sworn staffing despite having our own academy with 2 to 3 graduating classes a year. So we’ve seen cuts in sworn staffing, we’ve seen cuts in services, we’ve seen cuts in updating equipment. Where’s the money going? It can’t be salary and benefits packages for the deputies, because those, unlike other surrounding areas, have been essentially stagnated for over a decade now with sergeants actually making less than some patrol officers in other agencies.
We hear about the budget constraints that have effected the office. How critical it is to have “experience” in running a multi-million dollar agency, so the tough decisions can be made.
Let’s take a look at what kind of critical analytics are being applied to our budget by our incumbent using her 16 years experience as a top administrator of a multi-million dollar agency and the decisions it has resulted in.
The Sheriff’s Captains and upper administrators have been getting new pursuit outfitted Dodge Chargers (some are getting more expensive SUVs, but we’ll keep it simple and use one vehicle – the lower cost vehicle for this example). The average cost per vehicle is around $30K per fleet vehicle, if you include destination charges, etc. according to sources that give pricing on-line (no taxes). Since we now know how many captains and administrators there are with the new web page (progress!), we can figure out that there are at least 14 new Dodge Chargers (please remember these number DO NOT necessarily include the corrections personnel purchases) on the sheriff’s lots.
BAD DECISION #1:
So the first problem with this decision is that while staff that actually needs pursuit vehicles to do their patrol jobs are driving vehicles with more than 120,000 miles on them and being duct taped together in some cases, administrators who sit in offices and only use their vehicles to drive to work and back home are driving top of the line police vehicles. This is flat out poor prioritization on the part of the administration unless captains are actually going to begin going out on patrol any time soon.
BAD DECISION #2:
While administrators need vehicles to get back and forth from meetings or other necessary events, they do not need pursuit rated vehicles and they certainly don’t need high demand, expensive, muscle cars. The total cost of just the vehicles I’m discussing (enforcement admin, not corrections admin) is nearly a HALF MILLION DOLLARS. Since these are considered a benefit for administrators, we can’t just have a few cars available for work hours, each captain must have their own vehicle — for work and home use. So perhaps a Ford Focus, considered a top fleet car, with a fleet price starting around $14,500 would be more reasonable here? A critical analytical judgement to ensure resources and monies are used in a most efficient manner? Not by most people’s standards.
BAD DECISION #3:
Deputies are not only driving substandard police vehicles, but are told regularly that equipment and training are not within reasonable budget constraints. So while we pay for the captains thrill of driving in a high end muscle car (oh yes, we pay for all the gas too — off and on duty), we are told that we have to forgo coming into the modern age in regards to equipment.
I direct you too two (1, 2) recent fatal deputy involved shootings at the sheriff’s office. Again, while nothing may have changed the outcome of these events, the possibilities that may have changed them were discounted as to expensive. The less lethal option of tasers and the necessary training for them has been deemed “unaffordable” and not within the budget of the sheriff’s office. Many involved in those to events agree that there was a significant possibility of everyone walking away had there been less lethal options available to the deputies to mitigate the situation.
A baseline law enforcement taser starts around $500. You could outfit 400 deputies with the basic line, less lethal option for well under the cost of those 14 Dodge Chargers. Seriously — less than half. The other half can be spent on maintenance and training. And the cost in gas savings from going to an economy commute from a gas guzzling muscle car, that could pay for the perishable training.
You can even still mitigate the impact of costs further, assuming you’re an experienced administrator who understands advance planning and goal setting applications. You could phase in equipping your entire staff. You can equip half and if there is a call where force may be used, ensure a deputy with a taser is available on the call to offer that less lethal option if it becomes necessary. Phase them in over several years, equipping 1/3 of your staff in each phase.
Our sheriff has literally put the juvenile wants of driving a muscle car over the very real demands of a safer community for all of us. And now, with another election season upon us, she continues to try to hammer how she is an “experienced administrator” who can make the “hard decisions” about a very tight budget.
It’s just my opinion, but I think if this is what 16 years experience is bringing the taxpayer for their tax dollar, we need someone who can offer more than just experience, like fresh ideas, ability to improve our communities and a true understanding of how an administrator would prioritize the needs of a multi-million dollar agency.