Questions about Sheriff’s study
September 25, 2008
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” A public safety expert has raised some serious questions about a Sheriff’s Office staffing and efficiency study, adding to the concerns of county commissioners and the Sheriff as they continue wrangling over budget issues for the department.
A comprehensive study by Lafayette-based Voorhis Associates completed in August found that the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office was short about 18 staff, and also pointed out areas the department could run more efficiently. The consultants were hired after commissioners questioned the amount of overtime paid to officers, and asked Sheriff Joe Hoy to slim his budget.
The Voorhis study did not directly address the overtime problem, but did say the department’s scheduling was already very efficient.
However, the county had another consultant, California-based Joseph Brann and Associates, look at the analysis. Brann said the study didn’t focus enough on how the Sheriff’s Office could provide better service or address crime problems.
“This analysis seems to focus primarily on how the Sheriff’s Office currently functions, but does not provide a meaningful picture as to whether the results being achieved (actual outcomes, not the activities that are being reported) are what the residents and the commissioners expect,” Brann wrote in his observations from the study.
The Voorhis findings on number of staff needed were based on officer-per-1,000 residents, a method that Brann said he finds misleading.
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Size of police force has very little to do with level of crime or the efficiency of the force, according to a report by Brann ” more officers reacting to crime instead of being proactive against it does not necessarily mean a safer county.
Brann also suggested that a better way to analyze the Sheriff’s Office’s efficiency and budget is to compare it to similar counties, something commissioners said they want to do.
“There are many references to state and national law enforcement expenditures, staffing levels, and other types of data (in the study),” Brann wrote. “Why weren’t comparisons made with similar jurisdictions here in Colorado (counties and agencies that deal with comparable populations, workload and that have similar staffing)?”
Commissioners said they are working on getting all those questions answered by the Sheriff and Voorhis Associates.
County commissioner Arn Menconi said he hopes to have the questions answered and sorted out before commissioners begin planning the budget for 2009.
“Do we have a comfort level with the Sheriff’s Office budget and schedule? The answer is ‘Not yet,'” Menconi said. “But I’m optimistic based on (the Sheriff’s) commitment to providing more insight for a more efficient budget.”
It doesn’t mean the study isn’t useful, Menconi said ” while population-based studies might be cookie cutter, Voorhis also spent weeks observing the department.
“So there was a study that said we’re short-staffed, and then another cursory review that says potentially, that’s not true,” Menconi said.
Commissioner Sara Fisher said the Voorhis study is still a good starting point for streamlining the Sheriff’s budget.
“Some of the study was based on more urban types of criteria,” Fisher said. “We just need to translate the results into the reality of our community and demographics.”
Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.