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Measures taken by Douglas County Sheriff’s Office to reduce operating costs

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Measures taken by Douglas County Sheriff’s Office to reduce operating costs

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February 8, 2012

(East Wenatchee, WA) Background: Douglas County has a land area of 1,821 square miles.  We have 152 miles of shoreline with 5 hydroelectric dams.  There are 1,600 miles of county roads and 6 state highways.  We have a population of approximately 38,500.

Staffing:   We have only 27 full time commissioned law enforcement personnel.  That includes the command staff, detectives, and patrol shifts.  We have had three uniformed positions cut over the last 5 years.

Current Challenges:  Although an independent entity, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office receives its operating funds from the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.  The money is part of the Douglas County General fund.   The monies allotted to the Sheriff’s Office have not kept up with the rising cost of maintaining services.  The cost of fuel, overtime (to cover shift shortages) and supplies have gone up considerably.

The Sheriff’s Office has always worked to hold operating costs down.  Our most recent cutbacks have been the most severe.  On February 1st, 2012 the following changes were implemented.

  • Vacation house checks and crime prevention done by our uniformed volunteer service has been suspended to save fuel.
  • We will reduce patrols by requiring Deputies to keep their engines off for 4 hours per shift.  We will still respond to calls for service.  This will mainly impact proactive patrols designed to discourage criminal activity.  Deputies were instructed to do such things as required paperwork and on-line training.  K9 handlers will be allowed to let engines idle in severe weather to maintain the health of their police dogs.
  • If snow is accumulating, Deputies will be able to let their cars idle to keep windows clear of ice and snow so response to calls won’t be delayed.
  • Some calls for service may be taken over the phone.  We will honor a citizen’s request for personal contact regardless of the call.
  • There may be times when Deputies will respond on a call-out basis only because there are not sufficient overtime funds to fill scheduling gaps.
  • Training hours will be cut back
  • The number of vehicles we purchased to replace worn out patrol cars will be reduced.

We have also taken some affirmative steps to help our budget:

  • Our four contract cities (Rock Island, Waterville, Mansfield, and Bridgeport) were asked to voluntarily increase the amount paid to the Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement service.  All of our partner cities agreed.
  • The Board of County Commissioners voted to allow us to increase our civil process fees.
  • Our records staff created a paperless system for warrants, protection orders, arrest packets, and reports.  This has decreased our need for office supplies.
  • We will continue to seek grant opportunities to support specific functions.  Recent examples include funds to support investigating domestic violence crimes, traffic safety equipment such as RADAR’s and DUI detection instruments, sex offender tracking, and marine patrol.  While helpful, these grants cannot be relied upon as a continuous source of funding.

Another challenge we face is the elimination of our emergency management position. The job responsibilities include planning and coordinating an “all hazards” response and recovery plan, incident command for disaster situations, develop and maintain state required comprehensive emergency management plans, develop and maintain a directory to assist citizens with special needs in the event of an emergency, manage grants to be used for public safety emergency management needs.  At this time we believe we may be able to receive grant funds to maintain the position for 2012, but we do not know the fate of the position in 2013.

I am blessed with a very skilled and dedicated team.  They have done an excellent job helping keep costs down, but we are being asked to do more.  Public safety is an investment in the future of our community.  Reducing that benefit in any way is not something we take lightly.   As always, we will do the best we can with the resources we have.

Prepared by Sheriff Harvey Gjesdal

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