Sheriff’s Office struggling to provide adequate services in difficult times

By Curry County Sheriff John Bishop May 20, 2009 06:00 am
After talking with several citizens I have been repeatedly asked about what our current staffing is and what the mandates of a sheriff are. These are two big topics so I will attempt to address the first one in this forum and will follow-up in another forum later.

Our current staffing is at absolute minimums. (It should be noted to cover one shift 24/7 it takes six people; this will cover sick, vacation or holidays, and some training, but still requires overtime to cover those gaps). With this minimum staffing the administration then has to cover these gaps in all of the divisions which in turn takes time from the administrative duties needed to run a cohesive and professional organization.

I want to take you back to 1989 and tell you what the sheriff’s office had for staffing. In patrol we had 20 employees: (1) sheriff, (2) lieutenants, (3) sergeants, (2) civil servers, and (12) patrol deputies. Today the Patrol Division has 10 employees: (1) sheriff, (1) captain, (2) sergeants, (0) civil servers, and (6) patrol deputies. (We did not have Emergency Services, and Parole and Probation at this time.) We currently only have four patrol deputies working at this time due to injury and academy training. The sergeants are in charge of covering shifts, Search and Rescue, Reserves, Volunteers, Property or Evidence control, special patrol grants, all administrative work at the patrol level, and special operations including Marine and investigations. The captain and sheriff do respond to calls but are primarily responsible for the day to day operations of all nine divisions within the sheriff’s office. We will discuss this topic further, below.

In 1989 the jail had 11 employees, and no mandates on staffing. Today the jail is mandated to have two deputies on, at all times. We currently employ nine Correction deputies and two Correction sergeants who cover shifts, coordinate court security, prisoner transports, oversee work release inmates and are responsible for all of the administrative requirements. These include the dietary needs, safety and security of the inmates, medical and pharmaceutical needs of the inmates. They also are responsible to help inspect other facilities and work closely with the courts and Parole and Probation.

In 1989 the dispatch center had seven employees; with no mandates on Emergency Medical Dispatching (which ties up one dispatcher until the medical team arrives on scene). The 911 Dispatch Center currently employs eight individuals including the dispatch supervisor. The supervisor helps cover shifts, is responsible for all administrative duties of the 911 Dispatch Center, helps apply for grants, integration with emergency services, and coordinates with multiple state agencies regarding numerous certifications and mandates.

Our Parole and Probation Department has four employees and they handle all probationers, sex offenders, community service, and parolees. They are tasked with making individuals follow the laws and conditions the courts have placed upon them.

In 1989 the county had three employees, in the Animal Control division, today we have 1 and ? to handle all animal complaints in the county and run the dog shelter located in Gold Beach.

Our Marine Division has two deputies who are paid for by the state of Oregon Marine Board; they are responsible for all of the rivers in the county, any boat on the water, including the moored boats at each port and help other marine deputies throughout the year. They are also heavily involved in the Search and Rescue missions.

Remember in 1989 we only had approximately 19,000 people. The problems we face are twofold – adequate staffing to do the job and sustainable funding to allow the adequate staffing. The vision for the sheriff’s office is to have enough personnel to adequately, safely and in a timely manner handle any emergency that may arise anywhere in the county. I am sorry to say that today it just isn’t possible to accomplish this vision, or the safety and security of this county.

The good news is that we have very dedicated and hard working individuals who if it wasn’t for them we would be even in a worse condition. The other thing that makes this possible is all of the volunteers we have at every level. The volunteers are a great asset but we should not take them for granted, ever, and understand they are doing this to help make their community a better place to live, on their own time and are not getting any compensation for this service.

I also want to leave you with one more thought, and that is, when you think of the sheriff’s office, don’t think of us as just one office. We really are nine separate entities (Patrol, Dispatch, P&P, Jail, Animal Control, Emergency Services, Search and Rescue, Marine, and Civil) which are independent of each other but work together to achieve our below stated mission. An example is, Parole and Probation is different than Animal Control, which is different than Dispatch which is different than Patrol, which is different than Civil, etc.

All of us from the sheriff’s office want to thank our citizens for the support they have shown us.

We will always continue to strive to accomplish our mission, with the resources given to us. The mission for every member of this office is to consistently seek and find ways to affirmatively promote, preserve and deliver a feeling of safety, security and quality services to members of our community.