Editor's Note: The Pioneer was informed of an error in the print version of this story that said four uncertified deputies were to be hired. The Board of Supervisors approved the hiring of one. This story reflects a correction to the print version.
The La Paz County Board of Supervisors has approved the hiring a new uncertified deputies for the Sheriff’s Office. The SO had asked for four deputies even though these deputies weren’t included in the budget for fiscal year 2018-19. At the Supervisors’ Nov. 18 meeting, County Finance Director Terry Krukemyer said the funds were available.
Sheriff Bill Risen told the Supervisors that overtime has increased for the department and vacation time is accruing because they can’t let anyone have any time off due to staff shortages. He noted there have been 53 burglaries recently in the Salome-Wenden area. At any given time, the department has just one deputy to cover the district of 2,000 square miles.
“People want to know why we have so few deputies,” Risen said.
Krukemyer said that, with more employees, they wouldn’t have to pay so much overtime. He said a new deputy costs about $40,000 per year in salary, and that increases to $60,000 when benefits are included.
Sheriff’s Lt. Richard Epps said a major part of the problem is the county has the budget and staff for a population of about 20,000 people. However, during the winter months, that population may increase to as many as 200,000.
District 2 Supervisor Duce Minor noted that four new deputies will cost the county between $250,000 and $260,000 per year. He said he wanted to see in six months if overtime and compensation pay costs have been reduced.
Epps said the current deputies are doing all they can, but they’re being overworked.
“We need to give the people we have now a break,” he said.
The La Paz County Jail and the Sheriff’s Office were the centerpieces of the financial crisis of early 2017. The jail had been built to house inmates from other jurisdictions as a way of making money for the county. They held federal prisoners for a number of years, but these prisoners were removed during the controversy over SB 1070, the state’s strong anti-illegal immigration law. The jail became a drain on the county’s finances.
The situation has since changed, with federal prisoners being housed in La Paz County again. Many of them are illegal immigrants arrested in California. Under California law, that state’s law enforcement agencies are forbidden from assisting in federal immigration enforcement actions.