Wednesday, December 2, 2015



Comment: Some of the usual turf & funding fights. It is suspected in some quarters that one or more of the SO's would continue to be ineffective regardless of resources.

Updated Nov 30, 2015 - 6:46 pm
Arizona sheriffs push back against Gov. Doug Ducey's border security plan
November 30, 2015 @ 4:22 pm

(AP Photo/Refugio Ruiz)
PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey should restore money taken from counties and fix ongoing problems with the state Department of Public Safety before pouring more cash into a new state border security strike force, the state sheriffs association said Monday.

The Arizona Sheriffs Association said in an open letter that Ducey's new plan relies on cash previously taken by the state from counties that has hampered their efforts to secure the border. In addition, the group said the state police needs to fill about 100 vacant positions that are hindering normal highway patrol functions, upgrade its aging radio system, its counter-terrorism information center and its crime lab.

"Personally I don't think it's needed, I haven't met a border sheriff yet that says it is," Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot said of Ducey's new border force. "If they found moneys that they want to spend in regards to border security, they can send that money to the counties to help offset the cost that we've incurred doing the job we're doing now."

Wilmot signed the letter as president of the association, which represents all 15 county sheriffs. He said Ducey's plan to hire as many as 180 new DPS officers makes no sense given current understaffing and the time it would take to get the new officers hired, trained and deployed.

"You're biting off a lot more than you can chew. It would take you over a year to get an officer hired on and field trained before they can actually get out on the street," Wilmot said. "A better use of the money would be to boost funding for special teams already deployed around the state and by helping counties with their border-related costs."

Ducey formally announced the creation of the border strike force last week, saying he would ask the Legislature to approve tens of millions of dollars of new funding in the coming state budget. He said his proposal will add staffing, technology, air assets and highway patrol coverage. He also wants to boost spending on prosecutors, help county jails pay for holding added prisoners and temporarily use Arizona National Guard troops.

The opposition from the sheriffs association comes after years of budget cuts to counties by the state. Wilmot said sheriffs' ability to respond to border crime has been severely hampered by the cuts. Just this year, the budget Ducey signed shifted more than $54 million in new costs to counties. For several years, the state highway user fund known as HURF that normally supports county road-building efforts has been tapped to fund the Highway Patrol.

"Send the HURF money back to the counties, quit putting cost shifts onto the counties to fix the budget at the state level," Wilmot said in an interview. "The state needs to look at funding DPS through general fund moneys and address the concerns that we have before we even look at considering supporting any future additional projects the governor might have in mind for the Arizona Department of Public Safety."

Ducey said last week that his administration would work with local sheriffs to implement his plan, but he sidestepped a question about opposition from some sheriffs. Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said he was reviewing the letter Monday afternoon.


Note: and then Howie's take on it.

Sheriffs push back against Gov. Ducey's border security plan
Association says funds should go to communities

Border Security Hearing
With seized drugs and weapons from border-crossing drug smugglers, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, left, speaks at a news conference after testifying at a field hearing of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee at the Arizona Capitol Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, in Phoenix. R. Gil Kerlikowske, center, commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, listens in during the news conference. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Posted: Tuesday, December 1, 2015 8:38 am
By HOWARD FISCHER, Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX — County sheriffs are panning plans by Gov. Doug Ducey to use tax dollars to create a border strike force, with one calling the proposal "a little insulting."

In an open letter to the governor signed by Chris Nanos of Pima County and Leon Wimot of Yuma County, the pair said they are glad to see Ducey "taking a proactive stance in Arizona regarding border related crimes." The pair were writing on behalf of all 15 sheriffs in the Arizona Sheriffs Association. Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu is a vice president in the association. Wimot is the president.

The sheriffs derided the fact that Ducey's plan to add perhaps up to 200 new officers to the Department of Public Safety comes on the heels of the state, with the governor's blessing, taking more than $54 million this year alone from counties. "When the governor takes money from the local communities that's one thing,'' Nanos told Capitol Media Services. "But then to tell the local communities, 'I'm going to put it into a law enforcement effort at the state level to dictate to the local levels what kind of services they need for law enforcement,' that's a little insulting," the Pima sheriff continued.

The sheriffs told Ducey if he wants to pour more money into DPS he should deal with the agency's existing problems, like not having enough officers to patrol all the state's roads on a 24/7 basis.
"We applaud the effort to help curb drug smuggling in Arizona, but I'm concerned that the DPS is being stretched too thin to meet their primary responsibilities of patrolling our state's highways and running the state's crime lab," Babeu said. " On rural, state routes in Pinal County, when the troopers go off duty, PCSO deputies take their calls."

In his own county's case, Nanos said he would prefer that Ducey give back the $22 million the state took this fiscal year. "Maybe some of my deputies, who haven't seen a pay raise in 10 years, would get a pay raise," he explained. "Maybe my staff levels could increase from 80-90 percent up to a full staff level,'' Nanos continued. "Maybe I could have some needs to meet community policing efforts, not necessarily border crime fighting.''

In unveiling the plan last week, the governor said he wants "tens of millions'' of dollars for the strike force. He said that would pay for not only additional DPS officers but also more money to prosecute criminals and helping counties pay for incarceration costs.

And Ducey said he wants to use the Arizona National Guard, at least on a temporary basis.

"We appreciate the governor for wanting to step in and help us," Nanos said. "But we think he'd be better equipped at helping us if he asked us what our needs really were."

Gubernatorial press aide Daniel Scarpinato acknowledged that the budget signed by his boss took money from counties to balance the budget. But he said it's irrelevant that Ducey says the state has money now to invest in things like the strike force.

"You're conflating two issues here," he said.
Scarpinato said his boss is working with local sheriffs to understand and deal with their specific local problems. And he said some are being addressed, like having round-the-clock troopers on state roads — albeit only in the border area. He also said the task force, which actually has been in operation since September, has already seized more heroin at the border than DPS seized in all of 2014.

Nanos, however, said that still leaves the state making decisions on crime-fighting priorities.
The sheriff said there may be some sheriffs that want additional boots on the ground to deal with drug and human smuggling across the border. But he stressed that each county's law enforcement needs are different.

That failure to consult with them, the sheriffs say, is only half the problem. The other half is Ducey creating a new program for DPS when they said the agency does not have the funds to fulfill its current mission.
For example, they said the agency has about 100 vacant positions.
"Priority One should be to fill those positions to adequately handle their regular patrols on the interstates and highways of Arizona," they wrote to Ducey. They said counties must "fill those gaps," especially in rural areas, when there are no DPS officers working certain shifts.

They also pointed out what they called the DPS' "aging radio system" which cannot communicate with county and local law enforcement.

And then there's the crime lab which the sheriffs says is "plagued by long turnaround times for evidence analysis which prohibits timely prosecution of cases." "Wouldn't you be better off staffing your jobs that you're responsible for, get those up and running in an acceptable manner, and then come back and say, 'Hey, what else can we do?' " Nanos said.

It's not just the shortcomings of DPS that make the sheriffs wary of expanding the current DPS mission.
That sentiment was echoed in the letter on behalf of all the sheriffs who said in their letter that they're still waiting for the governor to provide them with information on exactly how the strike force would operate.
But they said they cannot support the plan until they get to see that and until DPS "is able to address some of the challenges ... with their current mandated services.'' Only then, they told Ducey will they "gladly reconsider our support of any future additional projects being taken on by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.''

The Pima sheriff also questioned how much difference some additional DPS officers along the border would actually make. "We have 4,000 Border Patrol (officers) down here,'' he said.
"I think they've got a pretty good handle on it,'' Nanos continued. "I don't think adding 100 to 200 more bodies is going to make a difference."


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