Sheriff advocates for more funding
KINGMAN — Mohave County Sheriff’s Office operations were a major focus of the budget workshop the Board of Supervisors conducted last month. Sheriff Doug Schuster repeated many points previously made to demonstrate need for additional funding.
“We are seriously understaffed. We are under compensated and our ability to serve the citizens of Mohave County is strained to say the least,” Schuster said. “We’re not as effective as we should be. There’s been public outcry to myself over and over and there’s been public outcry to this board for more staffing.”
Schuster said there has been steady population growth during his 28-year run with the sheriff’s office and that calls for service have skyrocketed. Yet the office has six fewer deputies on the streets today than it deployed in 1992, he said.
The sheriff told supervisors that accepted industry standards show that his department should have between 188 and 212 sworn officers to serve the county population, but has 83, more than 100 positions below the norm. He said officer to inmate ratios are dangerously high at the Adult Detention Facility.
“We currently have one detention officer for every five inmates. The national average is one for every three,” he said. “It’s a major safety issue and clearly it has to be corrected.”
Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Hildy Angius agreed, referencing recent corrections incidents involving escape attempts, assaults and a synthetic opioid drug scare that sent five inmates to the hospital.
“I’m concerned about the jail and the staffing levels. And I think we’re seeing some things that are going wrong because of the staffing,” Angius said. “It’s very important for the safety of not only your officers but for the prisoners, too, and everybody.”
Schuster concurred with a staff recommendation to increase his current $27 million budget by almost $1.6 million through use of a portion of a $6 million carryover of budgeted but unspent money.
Finance Director Coral Loyd explained that about $910,000 of the increase would be used to address personnel compression issues and that the budget increase also would provide sheriff’s personnel a 2.5% pay raise. Another $520,000 would fund six additional deputy positions.
Schuster presented supervisors with a 10-year plan to improve his department. He said the program would provide his department additional funding of almost $9.4 million over the decade, an average increase of $937,000 per year.
Supervisors expressed support for the sheriff and his department. Tentative budget adoption is scheduled for the June 3 Board of Supervisors meeting.