Welcome aboard for another column. The sheriff's office appears to have made it through another week and we are still in one piece, but things have been somewhat frantic of late. The rubber band holding the department together has been stretched to the limit. I feel that I should once again try to give you a feel for what we are facing.
On the dispatch front we only have four people to work the 24/7/365 MULES terminal. One dispatcher is on vacation so that leaves three. But that was the perfect time for one other dispatcher to get sick. That leaves two people to run the operation. We are going to have lots of comp time this week.
On the road deputy front we are still short five deputies. We lost two of our total from the 2009 budget process. We have one out on long-term sick leave, one on medium range sick leave and one for just two weeks or so of sick leave. On Saturday, March 7, we had one deputy scheduled to work day shift alone. The road lieutenant was supposed to be off on Saturday and he said he was going to work the day shift but that would have been day 15 straight for him so we told him no. I worked the day shift. So for the day shift we had two cars on duty.
For the evening shift we also had one deputy on duty. We pulled one part time deputy away from his civil paper service duty and put him on the road. One reserve deputy came in and we did need his service but we lost him to an inmate trip to the hospital almost immediately. He did not get back till midnight. I continued on the evening shift. So we had three cars to respond during the evening. The night shift started at 9 p.m. and since it was a Saturday night, we had two cars scheduled there.
From 12:01 a.m. until midnight on Saturday, March 7, we had 36 event calls to which deputies had to respond. We went to a wide variety of calls. We policed up a meth lab dumpsite, we responded to alarm calls, 911 disconnects, and lots of domestic or other disputes between people. For a period of time on Saturday we all thought it was national hate your neighbor, friend, or relative day and nobody had told us about the hate celebration. The disturbance calls just kept coming one after another.
But we made it through the day. Our dispatcher stayed awake. The calls were spaced out just enough that we got to all of them. We had to request help from the Richland city police and the St. Robert city police to back up a lone deputy on a call. Our very own Capt. Bill Anderson showed up at several calls in his blue jeans to help out on his day off. But since he had also worked twelve or more days in a row he needed to take some time off and he went back home after a few hours.
And there you have the story of a frantic day. But this is only March and the real heavy call volume usually does not start for another month or so. I suspect that this will be a very bad year. We will not have the manpower needed to answer all requests for service. The only way we can even try to cope is the same way we have always done. We will tally a massive accumulation of overtime hours to meet the demand. Sooner or later the financial bill for those compensatory hours comes due and then the county commissioners gripe about the bill. Or we could dump many of the calls and refuse to respond. Then the citizens of Pulaski County will scream foul. The bottom line here is that the sheriff's office cannot win no matter what we do and our default position will be to do the best we can and get to as many requests for service as we can. In our book the citizens of the county come first and we will do our best to help them.
Once again I would like to point out that there are 550 square miles in this county. We have 52,000 people living here all the time. We have another 10,000 to 15,000 people passing through on I-44 or visiting Fort Leonard Wood each day. We have 12 deputies to cover the road with four other deputies capable of backing them up if they abandon their own duties to help out. We needed to double the size of the department many years ago. The bottom line here is that the citizens of Pulaski County are being shortchanged in the field of county law enforcement and that will continue until the citizens revolt and demand adequate manpower and resources for the sheriff's office. So once again I will say that a half-cent law enforcement sales tax is one answer and we need to begin movement on this issue.
On March 9, 2008, the calls for service count stood at 1,666. On March 8, 2009, the calls for service count stands at 1,463. So we are still down just a hair on total calls for this year. I do hope to see this trend continue.
We are trying to get one of our more recently purchased used vehicles in service but the absence of our ace car fleet manager to sick leave is slowing us way down. If we use our backup mechanic to outfit the cars then we lose his service on the road answering calls. If we farm out the job to a private contractor then we have a bill to pay. The boat trip works much better when you have a paddle.
Once again I think I have written a column. It may not have been the best column but there are things I need to put on the public record for all to read. I would like to ask all of you to please drive with care and please keep your actions legal. We do not have room for you at the Cross Bar Inn of Pulaski County and we cannot afford to have you visit in the first place. But as I have said before, if you just have to visit the jail, the lights will be on.