January 29, 2007

Quick, Call the Sheriff!

If you have 2 people working for you and they keep complaining that they don’t have enough to do, the first thing you need to check

I keep hearing how local cities need to let the Bristol County sheriff come in and police the streets, to solve the drug, and gang-crime problems.

This is usually the way it’s phrased:

“If he wants to come in and help, why not let him in? It doesn’t cost us anything!” Then comes the complaint that it’s either an ego thing (the mayors’ egos are too big to allow themselves to be helped) or it’s a political thing (the sheriff is a Republican).

How about we approach the question in the positive, first:

Why should we let the sheriff in?

What is a sheriff in a Massachusetts county is supposed to do? As far as I can tell after some research, the sheriff is in charge of the county jails. His contribution to public safety is defined as being focused on keeping inmates in the jail and reducing the recidivism rate of offenders.

As far as I understand, the jails need to be managed, and the problem of recidivism hasn’t been solved. They are important responsibilities. Whatever their intentions, the sheriff’s department’s focus is already defined. If the sheriff’s department is looking for new work, why is that? Have they been given funds and manpower beyond what they need to fulfill their responsibilities? Either that is the case, or the sheriff is willing to divert resources away from their primary responsibility to the county. From what I’ve heard, the sheriff is a conscientious person when it comes to public safety, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that the issue is a surplus of funding and resources at the sheriff’s department (unless someone wants to correct me).

If there is a surplus or resources in one place, and a need in another, then perhaps some budget adjustment needs to happen. Perhaps that money is needed in the cities for law enforcement instead of jail management.

Why not have the sheriff send support into the city?

One reason why not would by the possible confusion over having multiple agencies acting independently within the city. I don’t think the logistical complexities are trivial. The sheriff’s men are not under the authority of either city’s police chief.

And while the deputy sheriffs are trained, they are not trained the same as the officers in the cities’ and state’s police departments.

On the subject of cost: the county sheriff doesn’t cost us anything in the same way that the Big Dig doesn’t cost us anything. Where do you think that money comes from, leprechauns? I’m hearing this “doesn’t cost us anything” claim from Republicans. They certainly should know better.

Sending the sheriff department in is a bad idea that doesn’t pass about 3 minutes of analysis. Yet you hear callers on the radio repeat it over and over, and it’s brought up constantly in the news (presumably fueled by the sheriff’s suggestion). I would recommend that callers who were previously fixated on sending sheriff’s agents into the city should consider instead sending the sheriff’s dollars to the city to fund the existing law enforcement infrastructure. That’s where help is needed.

Why does the sheriff want to expand into law enforcement? Does it make sense to have redundant and possibly conflicting organizations in the region? Does it make sense to fund a whole additional agency’s expansion into law enforcement? I don’t think so. We have state police and we have local police already. Let’s fund those endeavors. And let’s wonder why the deputy sheriffs aren’t more busy with their actual responsibilities.


This post occurred to me in the car this morning. Honest, I hadn’t read Keri’s blog about this very subject. Nor had we discussed it, although I’m sure she’s mentioned it before on air. But this is the first time I’d heard her suggest that the sheriff might be over-funded. I guess as my friend Chuck would say “GMTA.” I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks this.

Posted by James at January 29, 2007 5:08 PM
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I laughed when this came up on Keri's show just as I was typing this up. And then I thought to check her blog and I got that feeling you get when you type a log post and you realize someone's beaten you to the punch!

Posted by: James at January 29, 2007 5:33 PM

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