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Source: The Gazette - Colorado Springs

Section: Opinion: Letters

Date: Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Setting priorities Sheriff's deputies needed for emergencies, not evictions

Regarding The Gazette's Nov. 10 article, "Police tackle a dangerous, emotional job," there can no doubt why voters are reluctant to pass sales tax increases.

According to the article, six county deputies are processing two to 10 foreclosure evictions every morning. This equates to the El Paso County Sheriff 's Office currently spending 300 percent more time on evictions than it did last year.

Now, taxpayers are being told to expect longer response time from deputies when being called for emergencies, due to the tax increase being denied. Am I to understand that the priority for El Paso County Sheriff 's Office is not for emergencies? It seems laughable, not to mention ethically and legally irresponsible. I hardly think foreclosure evictions should have priority over burgularies, vehicle accidents, abuse and other emergencies.

The article stated the Sheriff 's Office is required by the state to oversee evictions and the banks are increasingly frustrated by the delay in forcing the homeowner out. I have a solution.

Why not put six additional deputies on the payroll as part-time and require the banks to pay 100 percent of the expense? That would free up the full-time deputies to respond to emergencies in a timely fashion and the Sheriffi 's Office would not be out additional expense.

If I need to call 911, I want to feel confident that a deputy is immediately on his way. I do not want to worry that he has to first finish supervising the displacment of noncriminals before he can respond to me.

Pat Taylor


Lt. Lari Sevene, Public Information Officer El Paso County Sheriff's Office responds...

On Nov. 19, Pat Taylor wrote a letter regarding priorities of deputies with the Sheriff's Office ("Sheriff's deputies needed for emergencies, not evictions").

There is no correlation between response times and the civil deputies. These deputies are handing a statutorily mandated function separate from patrol.

The Sheriff's Office has not seen a funded addition to patrol since 1989. This is why there is a lack of staffing on patrol and why the response times are suffering. In correlation, there has been a 50 percent increase in the El Paso County population in that same time. It should be noted, in the event of an emergency, any available civil deputy would respond to a call for service to ensure public safety.

The civil process is a state-mandated function that the sheriff of each county is responsible to enforce. The state sets the fees for the various civil process functions.

These deputies must fulfill the orders of the court as required by statute. The fees charged for civil process pays the salaries of the deputies assigned to this unit.

There are six deputies assigned to the civil unit of the Sheriff's Office. Each deputy is assigned his or her own geographical area of the county, including all municipalities and Fort Carson. Each deputy is responsible for evictions and service of documents in their respective districts.

Additionally, evictions on foreclosures are only one aspect of the civil function. Evictions are also handled on apartments and homes where the landlords are paying for the posting of the eviction order. Civil deputies are responsible for serving about 100-150 types of civil orders to include, but are not limited to, restraining orders, small claims lawsuits, summons-complaint-answer documents, and orders of possession.

Lt. Lari Sevene, Public Information Officer El Paso County Sheriff's Office

Source: The Gazette - Colorado Springs

Section: Opinion: Letters

Date: Friday, November 6, 2008

1A gave too much money to jail, not enough to deputies

Yes, I voted against the 1 percent county sales tax. But is wasn’t the money; it was how they wanted to distribute the funds, with the lion’s share going to a new high-tech, high-security jail. Now the areas I find important will get trimmed back because the powers that be will build the jail anyway. Do they not get the clue that we voters apparently have other priorities?

For instance, there was only a small percentage going to firefighting and sheriff’s deputies. If they had earmarked more for operations and firefighting instead of more jails, I’d have voted yes. Having more patrols and firefighters is proactive, it’s protection. Having comfy new places to lock up more criminals is locking the barn after the animals took off.

Our officials need to get in touch with what those who put them in office want, not make their own agenda.

Susan Stephens


Sheriff Maketa's response...

In response to Susan Stephens letter titled, “1A gave too much money to Jail,” the content of this opinion is simply not true. First, the claim that the county will just build the jail anyway is simply inaccurate. The County does not have the revenue stream to fund the expansion nor do they have the revenue to staff the current facility properly, let alone a proposed expansion. I am confident someday down the road, the County will be forced to build a new jail but that is not the case now or in the near future. The operation, funding and construction of a jail and the courthouse is a state statutory requirement placed on the county. This is clearly an unfunded mandate and not open for discretion. For clarification purposes, the ballot initiative was not for funding a new jail but an expansion of the current jail. Half of the revenue collected from 1A during the first two years was to pay cash for the expansion. The remaining revenue was to staff the expansion and hire additional personnel to properly staff the current facility, which is not adequately staffed. To make assertions that too much money went to the jail is not true. The jail plays a vital role in the criminal justice system and more importantly in our quality of life. We can hire all the additional police officers and deputies we want, but if there is no facility to take apprehended criminals, what purpose does having additional police officers and deputies serve? El Paso County jail does not have Maximum Security wards and as a result is forced to hold maximum-security inmates, who are extremely violent, in less than optimal wards. This situation creates an unnecessary risk to the staff that work in the facility. The jail expansion would have been designed to meet current code and federal laws with the technology incorporated only to the extent of making it more efficient and secure. Making it comfortable was not the motivation behind the expansion because the design is dictated by industry standards based on building codes, federal regulations and court rulings. The expansion would have been efficient and constitutional.

Additionally, $3.4 million was allocated to the District Attorney's Office. The District Attorney’s Office is responsible for the prosecution of offenders that law enforcement officers arrest. If the D.A.’s Office is not properly funded and staffed, then who will prosecute these cases? 1A would have funded the DA as well as provided approximately $1.3 million for the County Coroner’s Office. The Coroner plays an important role in determining the cause and manner of death. This is a critical component in all homicide investigations.

1A would have also set aside $7.6 million for the Sheriff’s Office Law Enforcement function. This would have increased patrol deputies by 60% and provided the much needed civilian support for those Deputies, such as personnel to process reports and dispatchers to take calls from citizens and dispatch the patrol units. Additionally, another $1.6 million was to fund and purchase equipment for our volunteer Wildland Fire Team and a Deputy County Fire Marshal, who would have been responsible for wildland fire prevention, mitigation and planning, as well as an arson investigator. Eight municipalities, besides the City of Colorado Springs, would have received a share back totaling $1.7 million by the third year. The City of Colorado Springs would have received $22 million annually through this share back. The revenue shared back with the municipalities was statutorily dedicated to Police and Fire. Detox would have received $1.7 million and this service is needed to provide an alternative to incarceration or hospital emergency rooms.

The cutbacks and reductions to jail and patrol staffing are due to increasing costs, lawful mandates and inadequate revenue sources to address this growing community’s public safety needs. I believe elected officials are in touch with citizen needs and their priorities, but elected officials also understand the statutory mandates that must be met to properly serve their citizens. Jails are never popular, and I am convinced that is why the federal legislators, state legislators and federal courts have mandated the requirements they have to the counties because they know they would not be popular with the citizens. Many of these mandates, especially those concerning the jail, are driven by the US Constitution and to ensure the preservation of the Constitutional Rights of our citizens. They can be costly and conflict with the wishes of a society; however, it is the price we, the citizens, must pay for the freedoms, safety and quality of life we have and enjoy.

Sheriff Terry Maketa

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