Cecil County Sheriff Janney Seeks 5 New Deputies in Budget; Moore Decision Due Friday
Cecil County Sheriff Barry Janney is seeking budget approval to add five new deputies to the force and upgrade computer software to track evidence and DNA samples, according to documents submitted to County Executive Tari Moore.
Law enforcement operating expenses are projected to rise by over $306,000 from current levels while expenses at the newly expanded Detention Center in Elkton would grow by about $886,000 over the current budget year under Janney’s proposal.
Under the new Charter government in Cecil County, Moore is reviewing Fiscal 2014 budget requests by individual departments of county government—including that of the independently elected Sheriff—and she will unveil her overall budget proposals on Friday 3/1/13. The County Council will then review Moore’s proposal but may only cut spending and cannot increase funds in the budget. (The new 2014 fiscal year begins on 7/1/13.)
Janney told Cecil Times that his department urgently needed to expand the number of deputies out on road patrols to answer an increasing volume of calls for help from citizens. He said his agency had not had an increase in the number of authorized law enforcement deputies in more than four years and officers previously assigned to special crime-fighting units have had to be put back on patrol duties.
The five new deputies would be “strictly geared toward road patrol to handle the high volume of calls, and that is just to stay afloat,” Janney said.
Cecil County’s population grew by 17.6 percent over the past decade, according to the 2010 federal census, and the local unemployment rate has remained one of the highest in the state in recent years. Those factors, and the county’s location along the I-95 corridor—a major East Coast drug trafficking route– have all contributed to growing crime problems in the county.
One of the financially modest– but legally and logistically important –budget increases proposed by Janney is $20,000 for computer software to upgrade tracking and handling of evidence in the department’s evidence/property unit. Unlike the fancy, state of the art computer systems seen on TV “CSI” shows, the Cecil County Sheriff’s department is currently forced to search manually for evidence and property it holds.
“A properly run evidence room is essential to the integrity of the agency and criminal cases,” Janney said in documents submitted to Moore. The new software would allow law enforcement officers to use a bar scanner system to “effectively manage, maintain and track evidence from the crime scene to the courtroom.” And if such software is not acquired, Cecil County could end up on “the ever growing list of law enforcement agencies that are facing evidence and property scandals.”
Janney said that new laws require longer holding periods for DNA samples and also mandate surrender of weapons by persons subject to domestic violence orders of protection, so the Sheriff’s department has an increasing volume of materials it must categorize and safeguard in its evidence/property unit.
Other Sheriff’s Department requests include routine replacement of 11 aging patrol vehicles ($407,000) —and addition of five new cars ($237,500) to support the five new road patrol deputies that Janney is requesting in his budget. Replacement vehicles are cheaper than additional new cars since radio and other equipment can by recycled from older cars.
The Sheriff’s Department has the most complex, and segmented, budget of all county government agencies, since it is responsible both for countywide law enforcement and operation of the county Detention Center as well as a separate—under state rules—community work-release incarceration section. It also operates separate “special patrols” under contract with incorporated towns in the county that pay for Sheriff’s patrols within town limits.
But the key components of the Sheriff’s budget for county taxpayers are the law enforcement and Detention Center sectors. Under Janney’s new budget proposal, the law enforcement component operating costs would rise from $9.96 million currently to $10.27 million, or about a $311,000 increase. (That includes boosting deputy staffing levels and additional patrol vehicles.) The Detention Center’s operating expenses would rise from $7.34 million to about $8.23 million, or about an $886,000 boost. A significant part of the Detention Center increase is due to the phased-in usage of the newly expanded facility that houses more inmates and requires more staffing. And a medical services outside contractor is requiring a 4.5 percent increase in costs.
Janney also raised an interesting legal, and women’s equity issue, about one of the most popular programs operated by his department that he was forced to curtail in recent years due to past budget cuts: using non-violent inmates to pick up trash along the county’s roadsides. Janney was forced to abandon the program when the county refused to provide corrections staffing and a van to transport ‘trustees’ to pick up trash.
But Janney told Cecil Times that he wants to re-instate the program and wants the County Council to pass a resolution that would allow female prisoners to participate as part of separate work crews. At the moment, women are not included in such programs under state guidelines but Janney feels the new Charter government County Council could change that policy by passing a local resolution.
“We can’t force them to participate, but I’m sure that women would want to get involved—it gets them ‘good time’ ” on their sentences, Janney said.
Last year, Janney made a compelling case to add two deputies to dedicated drug enforcement duties—one senior deputy to be assigned to complex investigations of prescription drug abuse and another deputy to be added to the Drug Task Force. But the County Commissioners—including then-commissioner Tari Moore– rejected that appeal. (During her campaign for County Executive last year, Moore said she was dedicated to “the war on drugs.”)
But now, Janney told Cecil Times that although drug enforcement was still crucial, his top budget priority had to be boosting the road patrol force to respond to citizens’ calls for help. But, he added, if the call volume decreased at any time, he would “absolutely” re-deploy staff to drug crime investigation and enforcement, especially the “street crime” unit that goes after street-level drug dealers and offenders that harm community quality of life.
Meanwhile, Janney – as an independently elected official who still needs to ask the new County Executive for budget funds—has a unique perspective on the new budget process under Charter government. So far—before he learns on Friday what Moore has done with, or to, his budget—Janney feels positive about the new process.
“I felt very good when I did my budget presentation” to Moore and her senior staff, Janney said. “I got positive feedback,” he added.
In the past, Janney and other department heads made their budget presentations to the five elected County Commissioners, who often posed questions based on their own political agendas or local district concerns. In the new process, the overall, countywide priorities were the focus, and it was “a very different process,” Janney said, but one that was actually “easier and simplified.”
However, Janney’s budget and those of other agencies will still have to face scrutiny by the new County Council, although that panel’s powers are significantly limited under the new Charter form of government.