Welcome aboard for another visit with the employees of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office. We had a busy week last week, or so I am told. As many of you know, I married a local lady and we experienced a death in her family and as a result I missed several days of work this past week. My command staff took care of the routine business and I am sure my desk is piled high right now.
We have a busy week set to start on Monday. We will start Monday with a welcome for several hundred new prospective jury members at the courthouse. The current jury panel term is about to expire and these new folks will take their place. Yes, I know everyone wants out of jury service, but we in the criminal justice system know that we need sharp jury members serving for those necessary trials. This does not exactly fall under the phrase, “It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.” The job is clean, warm or cool depending on the season, and Circuit Clerk Rachelle Beasley keeps the snack tray full for the jury panel. It really is a pretty cool job.
Some of our other jobs this week will be budget research and planning for the year 2010 POST training classes. We will also have to take special pains to make sure all business bills have been submitted for payment promptly. So we will be busy.
The budget research will be fairly easy. The County Clerk’s Office will supply us with detailed lists of expenditures that we had in 2009 and we must adjust for 2010 as we see the need. Detailing the needs in the 2010 budget will be the hard part. The critical, critical, critical, financial picture for the county will make that the hardest job of the New Year. Even so, it will be one of the most important jobs of the year because the budget will serve as the base for all of our responses for 2010. For the 2009 budget, we lost 3.5 employees for the year. The loss of the two deputy positions for 2009 really hurt us all this year.
I would like to add those missing deputy positions back into the budget but I also know that the $150,000 loan from the end of the 2008 budget year is still hanging over our heads unpaid. And we as a county DID NOT ADD any new sources of revenue during 2009 so I strongly suspect that we will not get the deputy positions returned. My fear is that we will lose more employees. If so, that will be the worst news possible for us in 2010, because we have already been cut below the minimum employee levels needed to do even an adequate job.
I will be completely candid with you: The upcoming budget battle scares me, and it should scare the citizens of Pulaski County. After all, it is your safety that these budget cuts will affect. If we do not have the deputies available to send to your call, then we do not have the ability to help you in your time of need. Yelling at the sheriff after the call may make you feel better, but it does not alter the fact that we had nobody to send.
We will also be planning the necessary training for the 2010 POST continuing education credits. We did round number one last week and we quickly came up with more training that we saw as needed then we have the time to present. As many of you know, each deputy must acquire 48 hours of continuing education in each three-year cycle after they graduate from the sheriff’s academy. This will be year two of the current cycle. Making all three years mesh together and providing the POST requirements in each category of training takes a lot of planning. There are four separate groups of training requirements that must come together complete at the end of the three-year cycle. It is not an easy job to set this training up for one year or the three-year cycle.
One item that I have not reported on for some time now is the case number/calls for service count. As of Sunday morning, Nov. 29, that number stands at 9,742. For this same time period last year it was 9,908. We are still slightly down from last year and with a little luck we will end this year under the record count of 10,593 that we had last year. However, you must remember that we worked this year with two less deputies. In many ways, our reserve deputies helped save the day for us on manpower this year. These unpaid deputies have stepped up to the plate in 2009 and helped us greatly. If you know someone who is a reserve deputy for us please tell them thank you and pat them on the back. After all their free service helps to keep you safe so please do your part and say thanks.
I had a question from a reader about the job that our administrative division does each year and I had planned to answer that question this week, but I am already over the suggested word count for this column so I guess I will have to save that question for another day. For now, please keep your driving actions safe and your daily actions legal. We do not need the car wrecks or you in our jail; we have sufficient problems already and we do not need everyone to “dog pile” on top of us. But the jail lights are on!