Sheriff asking county board for 4 more deputies.

December 5, 2017

Sheriff Kim Cole

Sheriff asking county board for 4 more deputies.

#MasonCountyCrime #MasonCountyNews.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole has begun the formal process of requesting four additional road patrol deputies. His request was approved Tuesday morning by the county’s public safety and courts committee and will now go to the county’s finance committee. The committee will also address courthouse safety in the near future as well (see related story).

The sheriff said in order to effectively do its job to protect the public, four more deputies need to be added.

“We need four more road patrol deputies to get us to a point where we can effectively fight crime and do our most to protect the public,” Sheriff Cole said, adding that in the 32 years he has worked for the sheriff’s office, the department has only increased by one deputy. There are currently 13 road patrol deputies.

“That increase of just one deputy in over 32 years is just woefully inadequate,” Cole said. “The times have changed. We don’t have the same types of crimes that we used to have. While the complaint numbers are not significantly up, the time we spend on complaints has greatly increased.”

Cole said when he took office in 2013, the sheriff’s office had a 24 percent clearance rate on cases; the office now has a 65 percent clearance rate. A clearance rate is calculated by dividing the number of crimes that are “cleared” (a charge being laid) by the total number of crimes recorded. Clearance rates are used by various groups as a measure of crimes solved by the police.

“The increase in clearance rates is a result of allowing our deputies the time they need to work on complaints,” Cole said. “It used to be that the deputies would just run from call to call without getting the chance to actually work on a case. We now give the shift supervisors the authority to call in other personnel to work overtime while the deputies are working on cases.”

Cole said an example of this was the fatal vehicle crash last week on US 10-31 in Amber Township. “That crash occupied about four hours of our road patrol’s time, which is time that the deputies are not responding to other calls throughout the county.”

Calling in additional personnel means paying overtime. Cole said the sheriff’s office overtime budget is 8 percent of the road patrol budget; consistently the end of the year totals are typically at 13 percent.

“We need to increase our staffing in order to properly do our jobs,” Cole said. “We have stepped up our efforts of trying to make US 10 a safer highway and we are doing everything we can to fight the drug problem, especially when it comes to drugged drivers. But, we need more personnel to adequately do that.” Cole said the county has seen an over 40% increase in drug related driving incidences since 2007.

Cole said the four additional deputies would work the road full time during the summer months. During the school year, one of the deputies would then serve as a school resource officer at Mason County Central, Mason County Eastern, and Covenant Christian schools. Another officer would work on investigating computer crimes.

“The majority of the crimes that we investigate have an electronic element to them and it’s necessary to have an officer work in that area,” Cole said, adding that both officers would remain in uniform and be available in emergency and overtime situations.

The cost to increase the sheriff’s office roster by four personnel would be about $133,000 per additional deputy annually. This would not only include wages and benefits but also the purchase of an additional patrol car per deputy and equipping that deputy with weapons, protective gear, radio, computer equipment, and other items.

The sheriff’s office has recently applied for a federal COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) grant through the U.S. Department of Justice, a program that was initially started under President Bill Clinton’s administration in 1994. Cole said the grant, if received, would only cover a portion of one deputy and only for a limited amount of time. Part of that deputy’s role would be to serve as a school liaison officer for Mason County Central, Mason County Eastern, and Covenant Christian schools.

The proposed 2018 road patrol and secondary road patrol budgets are $1,898,600. The sheriff’s office would need an additional $400,000 minimum to increase personnel. 

County Administrator Fabian Knizacky said to adequately fund the additional staffing through property taxes, a millage of about .25 would likely need to be requested, meaning a home with a taxable value at $100,000 would pay $25 a year.

Fourth District County Commissioner Lewis Squires serves on the public safety and courts committee. He said he is devoted to seeing that the sheriff’s office is provided with the proper tools it needs to keep the public safe.

“It’s vitally important from my perspective that we continually be mindful of the safety of our citizens,” Squires said. “Our county is blessed with an excellent sheriff and law enforcement personnel on all levels who are some of the best in the state. We need to help them and assure they are able to do their jobs.”

Squires said asking the public to pay more taxes is a task he does not take lightly but he also believes it is something that may be necessary. “I do not like to raise taxes but there are times when we have to take such measures in order to protect the public. We need to support our law enforcement personnel in order to keep our communities safe.”

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