Our population continues to grow in Pinal County, even in a down economy. New families are relocating in the faster growing cities of Maricopa and Casa Grande, yet it doesn’t compare to unincorporated San Tan Valley. The 2010 census counts 81,321 San Tan residents and current estimates show 90,000 or more.
Last year, the county contracted with the Segal Company of Washington DC to perform a staffing study for the Sheriff’s Office which said, “Based on population, the average staffing for Maricopa and Pima Counties is 1.33 per 1,000 residents…Pinal County would need 141 additional sworn personnel.”
The Board of Supervisors approved our current $330 million county-wide budget with nearly $40 million in cash reserves. I requested 64 additional sworn positions to meet the increased demand for service and population growth, yet the board denied any new positions.
Last week, the board hosted a budget summit with all elected officials and we heard a gloomy forecast of shrinking cash reserves. I will again make a request for additional Deputies this year, yet I’m not counting on the board to view this second request as their priority.
At this meeting, I challenged the board to make good on their campaign promises of 2012. While campaigning, they promised to reorganize county government and prioritize public safety, yet there have been next to no changes in the priorities of this government.
In 2008 I made several promises to you – my future bosses, that I would improve staff training, hold staff accountable, obtain Jail accreditation and reduce Deputy response time to emergencies. We’ve achieved all these goals and more, yet continued population growth requires additional staff to keep up with increased demand for service. Instead, the 2014 Sheriff’s Office budget has 29 less full time positions than in 2008.
My senior staff has recommended that I redeploy Deputies and other sworn staff to meet the changing demands for service. I have already terminated long standing agreements with the FBI and DEA multi-agency task forces in order to reassign deputies back to uniformed patrol. My staff recommended permanent reassignment of 20 deputies from other areas of Pinal County to San Tan Valley effective June 1st.
I’m bringing this issue to your attention in advance, to let you know that with current staffing levels I can no longer fulfill my promise of faster emergency response times in most areas of Pinal County. We shall respond immediately to all emergency calls, yet lower priority calls (non-life threatening) may have an extended response time.
As Sheriff, I will make do with whatever financial resources and staff that the board provides. I am confident that our Sheriff’s Office shall continue to provide exceptional law enforcement services.
I thank and appreciate the citizens of Pinal County for your continued trust and support as we strive to be the very best in law enforcement. It is our sincere privilege at PCSO to serve and protect our Pinal families.
Paul Babeu, Sheriff
Pinal County, Arizona