As police killings reverberate across the U.S., some Manatee County sheriff deputies are questioning why the agency is not putting a second deputy in patrol cars.
“We don’t have the manpower to do that,” Sheriff Brad Steube said Monday afternoon. “Now because of what has happened in America, to me, it even brings a shinier light to what the problem is.”
More than 98 percent of the county’s sheriff deputies on the road are wearing a bullet-resistant vest every day even though it is not mandatory, according to Steube. The sheriff’s office is also “investing in additional threat level body armament,” Steube added.
“It is all about providing the equipment, and it is all about the training that they’ve had their entire careers,” he said. “The bottom line is you can’t predict where this person is going to be and what this person is going to do. It is a difficult challenge right now for law enforcement.”
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The sheriff’s office will have the conversation this week about whether to have two deputies per car but in doing that, it would require taking personnel from other places, Steube said.
Additional deputies and other personnel could be coming to the sheriff’s office way as part of the 2016-17 Manatee County budget. While eight additional deputies were included in the $568 million recommended budget, there were still needs not recommended for funding in the budget.
On Monday, Commission Chairwoman Vanessa Baugh called this “a critical time,” asking the county administration to make sure the sheriff’s needs, as well as additional 911 operators, are covered in the budget.
“It is my belief with all the law enforcement officers being killed that it is imperative to find monies for the Sheriff’s Department,” Baugh said in an email to the county administration Monday. “It is a most difficult time for not only the officers but their loved ones. We must make sure we do everything we can to protect our own! ...We cannot fail them now or shame on us.”
When Steube presented his 2016-17 budget to the commission last month, the commission indicated support for funding 13 other new positions in the sheriff’s office — four corrections deputies, six dispatchers, a public records clerk and two forensic analysts — at a cost of $796,741. This unfunded budget request is among approximately $4 million in flagged items as part of the county’s budget. On Aug. 2, the commission will either have to decide to not fund a currently funded item, reduce reserves or raise the millage rate should they elect to fund any of the flagged items.
While the 2017 proposed budget, which was submitted to the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller, is $497,235 greater than the recommended budget presented in early June, the additional funds are for “employer contribution rates for the Florida Retirement System for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office updated by the Sheriff’s Office and required payments to the Community Redevelopment Areas (CRA) and two TIF (Tax Increment Financing) districts,” County Administrator Ed Hunzeker wrote in a July 15 memo.
In September, the commission will adopt its budget in two public hearings.