Welcome once again for another column visit with the employees of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office. Good golly, Charlie Brown, is it March already? How did we get here so fast? The good news today is the sunshine and the temperature at 3 p.m. today is supposed to be 49 degrees, so grit your teeth just a little while longer, and old man winter will fade away for a few months.
The temp is not the only number on the rise. Our case number/calls for service count stands at 1,355 today and exactly 364 days ago the case number count stood at 1,303 in 2009. It is too early in the year to try to predict any trend with these numbers but I can hope for a reduction. It is no secret that we lost another full-time deputy position in the 2010 budget. When you add in the two we lost in 2009, we have another trend that must stop. With the case numbers on the increase and the deputy positions on the decrease business as usual gets harder to do each year. I have said before that the train is approaching the washed-out bridge and the wreck will not be nice when it happens. I stand by those words once again. It is getting much harder to pull the law enforcement rabbit from the hat each month.
We were notified this past week that our Missouri Department of Transportation traffic safety grant has been severely cut in mid-grant year due to a shortfall in federal funds that MoDOT received to pay for the grants. We went from $12,486 to $9,486 in the blink of an eye on an approved contract that we have been working on since October of 2009. The good news is that we had not yet reached the $9,000 overtime mark so we are not in danger of overspending on the grant. Still, a 25 percent reduction of funding will impact our overtime traffic safety work in a big way.
Along the same lines, our efforts to take part in the MoDOT “Click it or Ticket” special statewide seatbelt enforcement day on Thursday, Feb. 25, hit a big snag when we had three overdose calls on the day shift. I’m not sure how the night shift went, but the day crew did not make many traffic stops that day. We should have a few numbers to report and that will put us in line for the usual slim chance of winning free equipment in the MoDOT drawing for equipment that is held after each special operation day. Also, it will keep us in the running for the required 100 percent compliance rate of working on each of the seven special enforcement projects. Those agencies that take part in all seven projects are entered into a special drawing for a brand-new and fully equipped police vehicle. If I remember correctly, last year it was a Chevrolet Tahoe SUV and it was won by the Carthage Police Department. I think you all know we could use such a winning draw.
This past week, Deputy Jimmy Bench went to an address on Tampa Road outside of St. Robert to check on the welfare of a person and was attacked by two very large Great Dane dogs. Jimmy was pinned to the living room floor by the attack and was lucky to be able to deploy his pepper spray at the dogs and drive them off. He will be off-duty on medical leave for the next several days.
Many people have asked if the dogs were “put down,” and my answer is no. However we have received information that our deputy is the second person to be mauled by these dogs and we are looking into the situation to see if further action is needed.
This past week, we had a special meeting with the supervisors of the Department of Family Services Children’s Division to discuss our joint enforcement efforts on hotline calls. Both DFS and the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office have suffered deep budget cuts and both have a series of new employees to train. Between us, we had more than enough problems to go around. I do believe we were able to work out most of the immediate problems and we are gathering research information on several others. Unless you listen to a scanner 24/7, you probably have no clue just how many DFS calls we respond to each year. One of these days, I should probably post some of the DFS call numbers that we respond to each month.
I would love to give you an update on the status of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s work on the big Waynesville Police Department drug seizure, but the public information officer for the DEA has not returned my call yet, so no news update from me on this topic.
I currently have my fingers crossed because I have located a 2006 Ford Interceptor police vehicle with 81,000 miles for $4,795 from a dealer who is out of this area. He does not have the car in his possession yet, but he tells me that due to my very prompt inquiry that I will get the first shot at the car when it hits his lot. In 2010, I hope to remove every car older than a 2003 model from our fleet. The maintenance on the 2000 and 2001 year models is killing us right now.
In the past two weeks, we have lost two members of the jail staff and one dispatcher. The only unusual part of this story is that only one person is leaving to take a higher paying job. The other two employees had special personal reasons for leaving us and I will not disclose those reasons.
Once again I have reached the end of a column. I would ask that you all drive with care to help prevent those nasty traffic crashes. I would also ask that you keep your actions legal because we do not want you in our jail. We cannot afford to have you in our jail, but if you must visit the jail lights are bright.