Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Charging for Sheriff patrols needs to be uniform

The Lucas County Commissioners and Sheriff James Telb have been meeting with and telling township trustees that they will now have to pay for services from the Sheriff's Department.

I understand the county's desire to collect more revenue for the Sheriff's Department - which habitually overspends and is rarely able to stay within their approved budget.

As a commissioner, I advocated against bailing out the Sheriff when he couldn't meet his budget, but was always on the losing end of that idea. My position was that rewarding his overspending with more funds just encouraged the poor fiscal behavior.

Then there is the general perspective that government should fund its mandates before doing anything else, and if the Sheriff's Department has a mandate to 'preserve the public peace' in the county, then that should receive funding before any 'initiative' that is the fancy of any commissioner.

Comm. Ben Konop has identified several cost saving measures (from a 4-day work week to lowering thermostats in buildings, including privatizing some services), but he wants to use those funds to give some Lucas County residents a 'free' college education (though it wouldn't really be 'free' if they have to 'serve' after graduation). He, and the other commissioners, reject using those cost saving ideas to fund current services - like the Sheriff's patrol in the unincorporated areas of the county.

This is part of the overall expansion of government that many, including me, find so repulsive: available dollars or cost savings are not used to reduce OUR payments to government, but to provide more and more 'services' for some while continuing to expect the same, and often more, funding from the rest of us.

But for the sake of argument, let's say that billing the townships for the services of the Sheriff Department makes sense and is the 'right' thing to do.

Will the Commissioners and Sheriff also charge the City of Toledo? Or is this just a billing of the townships?

The Sheriff has a downtown Toledo patrol car/route that covers many of the county buildings. Around the first of May, at the urging of Konop, the Sheriff agreed to some additional services within Toledo to help with the safety of citizens after the city laid off police officers.

According to the paper at the time, these are some of the arrangements made:

- Deputies who already patrol county buildings will be more available to respond to police calls downtown.

- Toledo Police would get first-in-line status at booking prisoners in the jail to get officers back to the street more quickly.

- Off-duty deputies will be assigned to the schools to replace Toledo police known as "school resource officers" for the rest of the school year. The school districts would pay for the deputies' time.

- Laid-off officers would be deputized so they can continue to earn money "projecting" at supermarkets, baseball games, and concerts. The entities hiring the officers would pay for the uniforms and gear.

- Deputies would attend Block Watch meetings in place of Toledo police officers.

- The sheriff would keep four SWAT team officers on duty to back up Toledo in an emergency.

Some of these have no costs associated with them - but others do, as Telb explained:

"We understand it's a bad situation and we'll do the best we can in the sheriff 's office to do our part to try to make the streets as safe as we can, at very limited cost."

So - if there are 'limited' costs, will Toledo be charged for those costs the same as the townships? And at the same rate?

If the commissioners believe that some jurisdictions should pay for road patrols by the Sheriff, certainly they agree that ALL jurisdictions should be treated the same, and charged the same rate.

I'll be interested to see how much Toledo is charged for the patrols within their limits.

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