Submitted by Paul Pastor, Sheriff, Pierce County.
Over this past week, we have really had to stretch to cover all of our patrol shifts. We pulled people in on mandatory overtime. This carried financial costs. It also involved costs in terms of our personnel, their families and their ability to recover and reset.
For the past six weeks call volume and the seriousness of calls (homicides, armed robberies with victims shot, fatality hit and runs) have ramped up. This really impacted us at a time when 17% of our total sworn staff are out on leave for illness, injury, military or family reasons or in the training process.
We are experiencing a general increase in overall demand as we deal with public order issues relating to homelessness and addiction. Plus, we are being given more responsibilities from unfunded mandates and the transfer of additional responsibilities from other County offices to our Department.
I have asked our command staff to do some urgent re-configuring of people in special assignments to bolster patrol so we can maintain a decent level of service for the community. This will reduce some of the important law enforcement services provided by those units. But we view patrol response to emergency calls as extremely important.
The bottom line is this: When we made budget requests for additional Deputies as well as a few civilian personnel, we were serious. Our requests were based on a study of public safety staffing needs in Pierce County. We have had some modest staffing increases in recent years, but the study indicates that we need at least 56 additional personnel to do the job right.
We asked for 22 of these to be funded over the 2020-2021 biennium. The result?
Unfortunately, the budget funded only 2 sworn and 3 civilian personnel.
My goal has always been to keep both the public and our people safe. But that has been difficult because we continue to play catch-up from past years when our resources did not begin to keep up with population or service demand.
Our people are well-motivated and skilled but there are times when the “rubber band” just doesn’t stretch any farther. We need a better way to establish a balance between service delivery, budget and the potential cost of our people getting overwhelmed. The staffing study provided the way to correct this, but the recommendations are not near fully funded.
Question: How does the public know that it is getting its money’s worth now? Well, we already provide law enforcement services at a cost point far below what other agencies cost per resident per year.
So, how should the public react to a government agency which provides a solid product at a cost much lower than the average cost of similar services? Should the public keep demanding more and more efficiency? The problem is that efficiency, pushed too far, can begin to undermine effectiveness.
Perhaps we have grown too good at being efficient. We have certainly felt the costs of our efficiency over the past few weeks. Perhaps, with the public’s help, we could be provided the resources to allow an already very efficient agency to be even more effective.Print This Post