There are many definitions used to define what Public Safety is. There is a marked difference in the last administration and that of this one. In the directives of the newly elected Sheriff, it is to return back to community policing. Putting units back in ALL our communities, getting to know the public rather than a constant enforcement action. Opening up our community sub-stations and bringing community input into the problem solving of specific issues. Placing officers in the communities where they are a constant contact for their citizens rather than just responding to a call for help.
This all sounds great but what does it take to get there. Would seem simple just divide the appropriate number of officers to all the communities and train them to work with their citizens in problem solving. Well, here is part of the issue which is staffing.
There are those County officials who would like you to believe that there are plenty within the Dona Ana County Sheriff’s department to respond within minutes of your call for help.
What they don’t want you to know is that for years your sheriff’s department has been understaffed. The Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Dept. has maintained an average of around 120 sworn officers out of the 160 authorized. Key on the word “authorized”, which means we should have in our budget salaries to fill 160 positions.
The 2013 population for our county is at 213,460 citizens as stated within the posted census. If we remove the incorporated areas which have police forces we have what is estimated at a little over 100,000 in population served by the Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Department. The FBI estimates that for appropriate coverage we need between 2 and 2.6 officers per thousand served. If we use simple math and the low end of 2 officers per thousand served we should be at a strength of 200 field officers in addition to the command staff needed to supervise. Instead we are below 160 officers and what benefit would the County see in not having enough officers to give its citizens? Simple more officers means bigger budget and less to use in areas deemed more important than public safety. Think this is incorrect ask your Commissioner where on the list of presented priorities does public safety sit. You and the safety of your family should be number one but you will find your safety does not even rate top four. This is a concern to all of us and needs to be addressed. We ask you contact your representative let them know your families need to be at the top of the list. By the way we were advised as the county knows we have less than 160 they do not leave the money in the budget for all positions and it is used elsewhere. Food for thought who does not want enough officers for our communities to be safe? Why would public safety be low on the priority list and who made that decision and finally where is the money?