Commissioners defend funding for sheriff’s office

Published 10:45 pm Wednesday, January 9, 2008

By Staff
Take issue with letter they believe suggests their support is lacking
Managing Editor
Beaufort County commissioners took offense Monday at a form letter being circulated by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, a letter they believe suggests lawmen can’t investigate some crimes because the board won’t give the agency enough money for additional deputies.
Commissioner Hood Richardson raised the issue during the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners’ meeting when he produced a letter sent by the sheriff’s office to a man who had hunting dogs — valued at $20,000 — stolen last year.
The letter, dated Nov. 20, said the sheriff’s office was unable to assign an investigator to the case. It listed several possible reasons, including the seriousness of the crime and ended with “and/or a lack of sufficient staffing at the Sheriff’s Office to handle the number of reported crimes that we receive.”
Richardson said the sheriff’s office has positions open that are funded but vacant, so approving money for more positions wouldn’t necessarily put more lawmen on the street.
Originally, Sheriff Alan Jordan wanted three new positions included in the current budget, according to County Manager Paul Spruill. They included two criminal investigators and a sergeant who would be in charge of patrol deputies. Jordan withdrew one of the requested investigator positions during the budget process, leaving the other two positions. The board provided the money for an investigator, but it did not approve funds for the sergeant’s position.
During their meeting, commissioners seemed irked at the suggestion that they aren’t supporting law-enforcement efforts.
He went on to say the language of the letter is “giving excuses before you fail.”
The sheriff’s office received county money to pay for 20 patrol deputies, five narcotics officers and five criminal investigators. Some patrol deputies have been promoted to criminal investigators to fill vacancies in that division, leaving the sheriff’s office with 14 deputies on patrol duty. Those figures do not include supervisory officials, communications personnel or jail workers.
For the sheriff’s office to have several vacancies is not unusual, the county manager said.