Friday, November 18, 2011

Message From Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw:

A few months ago, the Sheriff’s Office adopted a new $464 million budget for the current year.  

It wasn’t an easy process.

As you know, ongoing economic problems have hurt local tax revenues and forced all county agencies, including the Sheriff’s Office, to reduce costs. At the same time, demand for public safety services has gone up because of population growth in Palm Beach County over the past decade.

Making matters even harder, county administrators had asked my agency to make even deeper cuts in our staffing and programs because we’re perceived as being a major expense to the county’s operating budget.

That’s not the case. 

The Sheriff’s Office budget includes services that we aren’t required to administer. Those services are: running the county’s jails, securing the courthouses, operating the crime lab, and managing school crossing guards. The costs to run them: $151 million this year. The county is responsible for providing them, not the Sheriff’s Office. We’ve managed these services for decades simply because they are natural functions of my agency. In fact, we’ve managed them at a bargain price compared to what it would cost the county to run them separately as county departments.

My agency is an independent organization under the law, and I’m mainly responsible for law enforcement, making sure our county is secure. I know there’s a lot of pressure in government to reduce spending, but I’m not going to make detrimental cuts to law enforcement based on wrong assumptions about my agency’s core responsibilities.

Rest assured, your safety is my top priority.

Despite the cuts, we have kept in place all of our key resources to respond to emergency calls and fight major crime. Our specialized investigators are working to lock up gang leaders and end their destructive crime sprees.  Other detectives are closing open-air drug markets near rogue pain clinics and investigating doctors, nurses and pharmacists who enable doctor shopping and other unlawful acts.

As we’ve made our county safer, I have directed my staff to insure that fiscal responsibility is integral to all operational decisions. In recent years, we have held off on buying new vehicles to replace old ones. We have slashed overtime pay. We’ve also become more aggressive in pursuing state and federal grant dollars.

In addition, with 4,000 employees, including 2,200 deputies, our staffing levels have not changed significantly since 2007, and I have directed my staff to insure we hold that line. I am also continuing to reduce our upper management staff, which is at the lowest level in more than 10 years, saving the agency millions in personnel costs.

For as long as the economic problems continue, my staff will be evaluating programs and paring down costs. But I’m not going to accept orders to trim expenses because of wrong perceptions about my agency. I won’t let anything stand in the way of us providing the highest level of law enforcement for the safety of our citizens.