By Lucas Vader
The Back the Badge initiative is set to appear on November’s ballot for the second year in a row after having failed last year. This year, the initiative will only ask for a 0.8% increase in sales tax as opposed to 1%, and it will propose a 10-year sunset that wasn’t proposed last year.
To further ensure that Back the Badge passes this year, law enforcement agencies in the county are taking extra care to be as specific as they can be in regards to how they would use the money. The DCI will further report on individual law enforcement agencies’ plans for the money, but at this time, the Delta County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) has provided an outline of priorities for the funds.
Delta County Sheriff Mark Taylor has previously said his goal for his department is recruitment and retention. He wants more staff and he wants his staff to feel like they can stick around. He reiterated this point to an audience at a Delta County Democrats open house event at Delta Family Fun Park on Saturday.
“I know for a fact, and I’ve talked to some people who are here today, about some — for lack of a better word — crackheads that live in your neighborhoods, in our communities that are just causing hate and discontent in those communities and neighborhoods,” Taylor said. “[They’re] out stealing stuff. They’re stealing from you, they’re stealing from me, and why are they doing that? To supply their drug habit. We need to be able to have enough law enforcement to at least address those issues and be proactive and go after these folks and let them know that they’re not welcome in Delta County.”
Taylor assured the group, as he has assured at numerous council meetings and public events, that his priority above all is to ensure that law-abiding citizens of Delta County feel safe, while the criminals do not.
With that, the priority is to ramp up the amount of patrol in order to combat the rising crime rate.
“Our immediate response is more deputies, more law enforcement on the street, and Back the Badge will bring it,” Taylor said.
The largest change in comparison to last year’s goals, according to Taylor, is that the sheriff’s office planned to use the extra funds to provide raises to the deputies. This statement was controversial due to the fact that raises wouldn’t increase productivity. However, this year, raises aren’t a priority, as county officials were able to give them those raises without Back the Badge funds this year.
According to a press release sent out by DCSO, the department’s patrol division critical needs amount to a cost of approximately $538,433.
In terms of priority, DCSO’s press release first mentions the need to hire four more patrol staff, amounting to one deputy per each of the four patrol teams. This hiring process would include providing the staff with salary and benefits including retirement benefits, life insurance, health insurance, social security and Medicare. This cost would be in the amount of approximately $313,533.
Next, DCSO is in need of funds for new vehicles to replace the old or damaged vehicles in its fleet, in addition to personal safety equipment, vests, uniforms, duty weapons and other crucial items. That cost would amount to about $224,900.
The press release also states the 2020-2021 detention division critical needs amount to a cost of about $468,000. The sheriff’s office is statutorily responsible for the county jail, which differentiates the sheriff from other law enforcement chiefs in the county and in the rest of Colorado.
The Delta County Jail is designed to hold less than 60 inmates and has become increasingly frequently overfull. According to the press release, jail staff has increased minimally.
The press release states the jail is in need of four additional detention staff with salary and benefits, uniforms and proper gear. They need to maintain their medical service provider, which costs approximately $300,000 a year. The control room needs upgraded to abide by safety and security regulations into the future and the camera system needs upgraded as well.
The 2020-2021 dispatch critical needs are approximately $248,000, according to the press release. As dispatch operates 24 hours a day 365 days a year, it is short on dispatchers.
DCSO hopes to be able to hire three new dispatchers with salary and benefits. They are also in need of funds to conform to statewide mandates on 911 equipment and to upgrade radio communications to emergency responders.
“These are just a few of the critical needs of the Delta County Sheriff’s Office now and going into the future, as we plan for Law Enforcement demands in Delta County,” the press release stated. “Each of the city police departments is experiencing similar needs as well.”
If passed, funds from the Back the Badge initiative will benefit every law enforcement agency in the county. As the sheriff’s office covers all unincorporated Delta County as well as the Town of Orchard City while also managing the Delta County Jail and employing court security officers at the Delta County Courthouse, they are slated to receive over half the funds due to the size of their staff and the breadth of their responsibility.
In summary, according to the press release, DCSO’s goal is to put more deputies on the street in an effort to be more visible in those communities and neighborhoods that are experiencing high crime rates, to maintain an adequate staff-to-inmate ratio in the jail, thereby ensuring staff and inmate safety, and to employ additional dispatchers to be able to process emergency calls effectively.
“80 cents for every $100 spent at the grocery store, and other places in Delta County will generate enough revenues, approximately 2.7 million that will be split between five agencies DCSO, DPD, CPD, PPD and HMO,” the press release stated. “With these funds your Law enforcement agencies in Delta County will be able to implement these critical needs and provide the Law Enforcement services that Delta County citizens demand. And to ensure the brave men and women have the tools and resources to do what is asked of them and be able to return to their families safely.”
The DCI will report on the needs and plans for funds for other Delta County law enforcement agencies in the coming weeks.