From Sheriff Rich Stanek October 28, 2011
Law Enforcement Agencies across the country face challenges due to economic change. In 2008, the U.S. had 250 officers per 100,000 residents; in 2011 that number dropped to 184. According to a recent study, 30,000 law enforcement positions will go unfilled in 2012 due to cutbacks. The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office already has eliminated 64 positions; we will have to reduce by 25 more full time employees, to meet the 2012 Budget proposed by Hennepin County Administration.
Families, businesses, and other government agencies all are adjusting to limited resources. Staffing reductions also are the new reality for the Sheriff’s Office, and they will have a serious impact on the way we operate for years to come. Volunteers, technology, and collaborative and community‐ oriented policing are all strategies we’ve employed to minimize impacts due to staff reductions. But the current model for police service delivery is changing, and we will have to do things differently.
The 2012 reductions will most likely have the greatest impact on our Criminal Justice partners. Reductions in jail staffing may require closing a Housing Unit, leaving fewer beds for housing inmates arrested by our Police Department partners, and also may mean longer waits for fingerprinting and booking times for arrestees. Arresting officers may have to wait in line as we work to assist with fewer staff—keeping them from patrolling their cities. Reductions will mean longer turn‐around times when deputies are ordered by the courts to transport and guard inmates and patients in courtrooms and hospitals‐‐ which also means a slow‐down for court proceedings, increased lengths of stay for inmates, and longer times to trial. The loss of several Crime Lab Scientists mid‐year, when 2009 Stimulus Funds run out, will likely mean longer turn‐around times for evidence processing. Our Finance Division will no longer have staff to post foreclosures to the website.
Since mid‐year 2009, the Sheriff’s Office has activated new strategies to leverage taxpayer‐funded resources into force‐multipliers for our reduced staff. We have 125 trained Special Deputies that volunteer to work under the supervision of sworn officers, in 5 areas: Emergency Squad, Water Patrol, Mounted Patrol, Explorers and Mobile Amateur Radio Corps, and we have another 165 volunteers that work to provide community‐based assistance and counseling to Jail inmates. Volunteers contribute thousands of hours each year, and we rely upon them more and more as we make reductions in paid staff. We’ve implemented strategic management solutions: improving scheduling to reduce overtime, eliminating and consolidating some service areas, and cutting back on training and vehicle and equipment replacement schedules.
We’ve invested in cost‐conscious ways to be more effective in criminal investigations, through intelligence‐led policing, improved information sharing, and coordinating crimefighting collaboratives with our state, federal and local Police Department and County Attorney partners. Our investigators partner with Hopkins, Brooklyn Center, Richfield, Golden Valley, and Brooklyn Park investigators (just to name a few), to fight violent crime, detect and arrest drug traffickers, seize illegal weapons, and investigate gang shootings, and homicides and officer‐involved shootings.
We’re targeting resources to areas with the greatest need. Our deputies had 7500 contacts with residents and visitors as we provided 1400 hours of supplemental patrolling in the Downtown Safezones District during busy evening hours this summer. 25 HCSO Deputies responded to the Minneapolis Tornado in May. Deputies have responded to a record number of drownings, and the Crime Lab has responded to 206 death investigations in 2011. Throughout the year we worked to raise awareness and collect unwanted medicines to target prescription drug abuse, the second leading cause of accidental death in the nation (the first is traffic accident), and also more prevalent than cocaine and heroin use among our kids. And right now our Deputies must provide 24 hour security at the OccupyMN protests on the government plaza (at a cost of $200,000 for the first two weeks).
The Sheriff’s Office is leaner, smarter and more effective ‐‐in part due to reductions that prompted these improvements.
Yet, personnel, pensions, and health insurance costs, fuel and equipment costs, and food, mandated medical and prescription costs for inmates all continue to increase, and have more than absorbed the efficiencies and reductions we adopted so deliberately. And now we recognize that we can’t solve the problems in our 2012 Budget by ourselves, we need to engage the broader community and work in partnership.
The Sheriff’s Office will continue to work to find smarter and more effective ways to fulfill our responsibilities, and also meet the fair expectation of residents that we do all in our power to keep them safe. As the Sheriff’s Office is asked by the County Board of Commissioners to make even further cuts in 2012‐‐ and we shift and adapt the way we do our jobs‐‐it’s also important to be mindful: ensuring public safety and protecting the adults and children that live, visit or work in Hennepin County must always be the first duty of government.