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2013 budget request: Undersheriff’s memo to the county commissioners



Salida, Colorado



TO:                 Chaffee County Board of Commissioners                

FROM:           John Spezze, Undersheriff

DATE:           August 20, 2013

SUBJECT:  2014 Budget Request

Last year we submitted the budget request and outlined specific goals that we have identified as pertinent to our organization. The following is an update to those long range issues:

**To implement community / problem oriented policing, develop programs, and forge partnerships with the community.  While this administration has effectively promulgated its vision and philosophy of community policing throughout the agency, lacking sufficient personnel to do more than respond to calls has prevented our creating crime prevention programs such as Neighborhood Watch, Ranch Watch, and others.

In 2013 we were able to implement an Explorer program involving young persons from both the Buena Vista and Salida Schools. To this point we have ten participants, ages 15 to 21, with possible expansion as the program matures.

**Create an interactive website, an Internet newsletter, and other tools to effectively communicate with our citizens.  We have been very successful in meeting these goals.  Our website was completely revised and allows for comments by our citizens.  It is updated frequently, and was especially helpful in informing citizens of county fire restrictions.  Several Internet newsletters were distributed, timely press releases were issued and posted on our website, articles and letters to the editor were submitted and published, public forums have been conducted, and in general we have lived up to our commitment to transparency and responsiveness to the public. 

**Develop a citizen police academy.  It remains a goal, but one not capable of realization absent additional staff. We hope to develop and hold our first citizens academy in the fall of 2013. We are currently in the planning stages.

**Form a citizen advisory council to provide us perspectives and to gauge community standards and community expectations of the sheriff’s office.  We have formed our advisory council and have six members on board. We have held two meetings with the board, the first being an introduction and tour of the sheriff’s office, and the second being an up-date on our goals and needs of the agency. The interaction has been very informative and helpful.

**Pursue accreditation of the agency.  In progress.  Former commander McGuire has put in scores of hours revising our policies and we hope to be prepared for the self-assessment stage this fall.

We have made application for accreditation and are scheduled for assessment in September, 2013.

**Evaluate technologies that will lead to greater effectiveness.  Sophisticated, proven technologies have been in general use within the broader law enforcement community for years, technologies such as automated license plate readers, in-car and on-person video recorders, mobile data terminals, and others. 

In 2013 the sheriff’s office issued I-Pad mini’s to all patrol staff. The software included both Wi-Fi and cellular capabilities. These units will record crime scenes, provide a data base for info sharing, allows for reports to be completed while on-scene or out in the field, allow for scene documentation with the use of recording and photo capabilities. This has proven to be a tremendous asset in that it gave personnel more capabilities to be faster and more efficient in their daily jobs.

The sheriff’s office is in the process of upgrading the records management system (RMS) in use by records, dispatch, jail and patrol. Sleuth is the system in use and although it has been somewhat dependable, the current version is antiquated and lacked state of the art function. We did have a presentation by Sleuth personnel in regards to the new Sleuth 10 version and it appears to be extremely capable of providing much needed technology improvement.  We will continue this evaluation and pick a provider that is economical yet efficient.

**Our request last year to re-fund the deputy position deleted in 2011 was not granted.  Had it been approved, the position would have allowed us to provide at least a modicum of crime prevention and community outreach.  While we understand the reasons for the commissioners’ decision, we regret the inability to provide the services to our public that have become common in other agencies.

In 2013 it became very apparent for the need for one more detective position . On average our investigator carries fifteen cases at minimum. With this case load it is impossible for our investigator to complete the amount of work necessary to investigate each incident fully. Our investigator has to then rely on patrol deputies to complete follow up. This is done on a regular basis which continually ties up on duty resources. This then increases our response times and drastically reduces our visibility throughout the county. Due to our current staffing and call loads it is becoming difficult at best to provide consistent service to the residents of the unincorporated areas of Chaffee County. With this in mind we looked at all scenarios, even cutting services, where we could free up patrol staff. One issue was clear in that if we increased staffing by adding one more investigator we would be able to stop relying on our patrol staff to backfill investigative functions.

In 2013 we began a project to improve our evidence handling and storage. We previously stored our evidence in three different locations, one in Buena Vista and two in Salida, using two deputies to catalog and maintain our evidence. We are now combining our  two Salida evidence rooms into one with the remodel of the deputy room on the third floor. This is a big step on improving our function, however due to lack of funding we still rely on two deputies to maintain this function. Combined these two deputies also perform patrol functions, one has supervisory responsibilities, they manage taser, radar, and intoxilizer functions. We are asking for a part time position to hire a person who could take over and manage our property function.

**With only eight full-time patrol deputies and a single detective, it is not possible for this agency to provide more than the most basic, reactive services to our citizens.  Indeed, our patrol commander and three sergeants are required to perform the duties of patrol deputies rather than devote their time to command and supervision.  We serve a population greater than Salida and Buena Vista, one that balloons exponentially in the summer with seasonal residents and recreationists, spread over hundreds of square miles, yet our patrol force is about the same as each of the two municipalities’. 

**In our estimation an additional four patrol deputies and one additional detective are needed to achieve a reasonable ability to provide effective services within the unincorporated area.  With this in mind, the sheriff and I intend to propose to you and to our residents in unincorporated Chaffee County the creation of a Law Enforcement Authority.  Such an entity is authorized by state statute.  It first requires a resolution from the board of county commissioners after which it is submitted to the electorate residing in the unincorporated area in a special election; residents in the corporate municipalities of Buena Vista, Poncha Springs, and Salida are not eligible to vote and would not be adversely affected by the outcome of the special election.  If approved by voters, a small increase in their property taxes would go directly to the sheriff’s office to be used exclusively to provide law enforcement services to our citizens in the unincorporated area of Chaffee County.

Wages continue to be of major concern to this administration and our employees as well. We are constantly competing with other agencies and entities to recruit and maintain staffing that is qualified and professional. The State of Colorado is providing its employees raises, which makes it even harder to recruit people for both the jail and patrol as well. DOC employees already make more in base salary than Chaffee County and unless we provide raises the gap widens.

Our employees are loyal and hardworking. Many of our employees stay with Chaffee County because they are committed and loyal to Chaffee County. Our employees were given raises last year and it was much appreciated, however due to the federal government payroll tax/SS tax issue our employees actually realized about $20 to $30 dollars a month increase. The raise helped because our employees did not see a decrease in wages however the gap was widened between Salida and BV employees because Chaffee County pays SS and the other entities do not.

I am asking for a 5% across the board raise for our employees. This seems to be a fair number based on the current economic conditions within our county and state as well.