Welcome aboard one more time as we struggle with the rain and flood waters. We have had a busy week and a bit of an unusual week of work for the department. The usual arrival of warm weather has once again greatly increased the amount of overtime that the deputies are working each day.
I took a quick survey through the time cards this week and quickly got to a total of over 4,000 hours of comp time that we owe the deputies and I did not look at every employee’s total time. When the state auditors did our last audit they totaled around 3,300 hours of comp time in their report. The county policy is to pay out the comp time when the employee leaves our service, so the hours mount ever higher each year.
The best example that I can give is for one of our older deputies who acquired 368 hours of comp time during the Joe Johns manhunt many years ago. Those hours are still on his account. I might add that back during the manhunt he was paid a lot less than he is now, and when we do pay him out for those hours, it will be at a much higher rate of pay. This makes no financial sense at all to me.
We face a double-edged sword on this one. Our deputy count has dropped over the past two budgets but the work load has increased. Thus we acquire more comp time each year that adds to the total. In order to cut this financial burden down, we have a choice. We can increase the number of working deputies or we can cut our service to the citizens of Pulaski Country. I will not cut the service to the citizens of the county. We will work whatever hours are needed to do the best job that we can accomplish.
All of the above financial troubles are due to a lack of funding by the county. The county cannot pay off these costs that are owed with the money they do not have in the bank. Once again I will tell you that the entire Pulaski County general revenue fund comes from a single half-cent countywide sales tax.
We also had other bad news this week. One of our deputies was rushing to try and intercept a reported load of stolen goods that was being moved by a suspect vehicle. He attempted to cut cross country from Rt. DD onto a gravel road. He lost control of the vehicle and totaled out one of our 2003 Ford patrol cars. Naturally it was a car that Pulaski County does not have full coverage insurance on. So instead of receiving around $3,000 from the insurance company to use toward a replacement vehicle, we will receive zero funds. I will have to figure out a way to replace the car.
Why does Pulaski County not have full coverage on the patrol car? The answer is because Pulaski County does not have the financial resources to put full coverage insurance on our patrol cars. We only have full coverage on three or four of our very newest cars. For that matter, why does Pulaski County fail to purchase patrol cars for the sheriff’s department? The last time the county budget helped pay for a patrol car was in the year 1999 or 2000. Well once again I will tell you that the entire Pulaski County general revenue fund comes from a single half-cent countywide sales tax. You cannot pay out what you do not have, unless you are the federal government.
I would imagine that about now some readers are saying, “There goes the sheriff whining once again about money.” Nope, I am simply telling YOU how YOU have decided to fund the sheriff’s department. If you want a better department for the future, then you will have to fund better. If you are happy with the status quo, then you are happy.
This weekend we set up a large training session for any police agency that wanted to attend a class on the latest training for dealing with an active shooter incident. We had right at 30 officers who attended the class from as far away as Branson. Since the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office hosted the event, we decided to put all twelve of our paid road deputies into the same class. Since our 12 road deputies will be the primary responders for our department to any such incident, we wanted all of them to hear the same information and take part in the same tactical exercises at the same time.
In order to provide law enforcement cover for the county, we requested and received a large turnout from our reserve deputies. The day shifts Saturday and Sunday were manned by reserves and by me as the sheriff. The evening shifts were manned by reserves and Lt. Tony Claar. The midnight shifts were manned by reserves and Capt. Bill Anderson. In order to get all twelve road deputies into the same class, we had to work on some scheduled days off, so add in more overtime.
Why did we do this? If you listen to the national news you have probably heard about an armed attack on a hospital, a senior citizens home, a day care center, many schools, many work place locations, and even one police station. Last fall, I issued a directive to the staff that during 2010 we were going to place a heavy emphasis on training for such an active shooter situation. Lt. Claar found a grant-funded training academy that would come here and train at no cost to the host or other students. Lt. Claar and Capt. Anderson did all of the work on getting these folks here and setting up the training. It was complicated by the fact the trainers needed to know each student’s name several weeks in advance of the actual training. This week we trained the paid deputies. Next week our reserve deputies will take the same training.
I would like to give a special thanks to Dr. Judene Blackburn of the Waynesville school system for the loan of the old Waynesville Technical Academy as our training site. One of the critical aspects of this training was the use of special “simunition” firearms and ammunition. These weapons can fire accurately up to 300 feet and that required a lot of room (and a lot of protection equipment) for the combat exercises that the students shot their way through. Not to mention the fact that we needed a place that would not be damaged by the use of the weapons. The abandoned academy was perfect for this training. Thank you, Dr. Blackburn!
I believe that I have once again completed a column. I hope you will “tune in” again next week as I try to once again present you with the news and events that concern the sheriff’s office. We are open for business and our jail space is limited but the jail lights work just fine.