Sheriff Bill Risen is running on the bare minimum in funding, he says, and is worried that it may not be enough.
Speaking to the Board of Supervisors on Monday morning, Risen said that his department has handled 1,295 calls in the last 30 days with minimal staff, including:
- vehicle collision investigations
- medical calls
- disturbance calls
- assistance calls
- animal calls
- deceased persons
- domestic violence
- criminal damage
- shots fired
- missing persons
- juvenile problems
- child abuse
- sex cases
He told the Board about a couple of cases in particular, including a rape case which required the attention of the only deputies on duty and left nobody on patrol in the whole County while deputies assisted the victim and investigated.
“Captain Bagby put on his uniform, got in his unit and came down to Parker and patrolled while everybody was tied up,” Risen told the Board. “Captain Bagby does not get overtime.”
He told the story of a recent vehicle collision on Salome Road, in which a 3 year old child was ejected from the vehicle, propelled “through a Palo Verde tree” leaving part of the scalp behind in the tree and the child’s skull visible, and was reached by Sheriff’s deputies who administered first aid with officers from DPS.
“The 3 year old was taken to hospital and will survive,” Risen said, “only due to the actions of the officers who responded. My question is, if those officers hadn’t responded, what would we have had?”
Risen also mentioned 30 pounds of methamphetamine recently confiscated, and asked how many lives would have changed if the drug had made it to the streets of Quartzsite, Wenden, Salome and Parker.
“We are running at bare minimum,” Risen told the Board. “To those of you who work for the County you know how hard it is to call and get us to assist, because we just don’t have the units available. We’re coming up on holiday weekends. We have Memorial Day coming up.”
According to a recent press release, the Sheriff’s Department will be partnering up with Parker Police, Quartzsite Police and CRIT Police as recipients of an Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety grant for Memorial Day weekend, allowing the local agencies to put more officers on DUI patrols that weekend.
“The goal of this enforcement detail will be to deter impaired drivers,” according to a statement. “Nearly one third of fatal crashes in the United States was related to impaired driving. […] Our departments, along with the assistance of Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, know these statistics are a chilling reminder that we need to not only enforce DUI laws, but to also educate drivers about the dangers and effects of impaired driving and prevent an impaired individual from getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.”
The grant funds officer overtime pay. But Risen said it couldn’t be done without deputies on the payroll in the first place, saying he has been losing people from his department in response to La Paz County’s financial situation.
“Think about it,” he said, before leaving the podium to sit down.
La Paz County Sheriff’s Department covers around 4500 square miles including a lengthy stretch of Interstate 10 and is based in Parker, AZ.
Supervisors DL Wilson and Duce Minor have said that the budget cuts at the County are a painful but necessary part of bringing a widely-acknowledge financial crisis under control. Employees have been laid off, department budgets have been slashed and new rules have been enacted in order to curb spending.
Among the Board actions on Monday was a tentative approval of a new food contract at the La Paz County Jail, which would hand off control of the jail’s commercial kitchen to an outside contractor, potentially saving the County around $150,000 per year. This also reduces liability, according to Commander Suffle.