County's budget cuts have a ripple effect
The East Carbon-Sunnyside police budget is fluctuating as 2014 begins. City Police Chief Sam Leonard addressed the council at its last session to discuss a Community Criminal & Juvenile Justice Grant as well as a county decision to cut $27,000 from the department's budget.
In late December 2013, the EC-S department was awarded a $7,500 grant, which in the words of chief Leonard will "increase the safety of our officers."
The situations faced by rural police forces including the EC-S PD are unique, in the respect that officers from these departments routinely go out alone, said Leonard.
"Our officers go out one at a time and to be honest that is no position for anybody to be in," said the chief. "To face that, our officers and myself are always working on how we can be safer in the field."
Through the justice grant, Leonard applied for two weapons, a set of four on-duty backup pistols as well as a new state-of-the-art taser."
Leonard displayed both of the new weapons at the council session, demonstrating just how effective the tools will be for area officers.
The back up pistols are Sig Sauer 9mm sub-compacts which make them easy to carry and even easier to conceal. They were obtained to serve as backup weapons for EC-S Police Officers while on duty as well as a small off-duty pistol.
"We're are cops 24-hours-a-day, whether we are on duty or not," said Leonard. "And these weapons give us an added weapon should we need to provide back-up."
Concerning the taser, Leonard described the tool's new functions as the best thing he has seen come into the field in a long time. The X-26 carries two rounds, giving police a second shot should they miss on their first attempt. Tasers can be difficult to score a direct hit with as the officer must place two separate electrodes in their target in order to activate the stunning process.
"That second shot is important because sometimes you miss your first shot, and sometimes you are dealing with two subjects," said Leonard. "I know people don't like to think about those types of scenarios but that is the reality of police work. At times our officers are alone when confronted by multiple assailants."
The X-26 features laser sights on both electrodes as well as an arcing feature which allows the officer to produce the light and sound of a taser shot without actually firing the taser.
"Most people who have been shot with this tool, or know anything about it, know that they don't want it," explained Leonard. "These are deployed many times daily across the nation and it's basically in place of our handguns. They save lives."
As he continued to address the council, Leonard again stressed the importance of backup to police officers, a benefit the East Carbon department is lacking.
"That is what disappoints me the most about Carbon County cutting our money, $27,000, right off the bat. Money that we have always been given, and they have cut it," explained the chief. "The county, in my opinion, was getting a good deal for the money they were spending."
According to Leonard, services that are provided to Price, Helper and Wellington in the form of instant backup are not available to East Carbon-Sunnyside. While Price, Helper and Wellington are also cared for in terms of animal control by the county, EC-S must provide their own animal services.
"When I approached them (the county commission) about this issue (animal control costs) a couple of years ago, they said that they were already paying us for patrols," said Leonard. "I said okay and have felt that $27,000 was a win-win for both our city and the county."
City council member David Maggio then asked Leonard if he would approach the commission in tandem to discuss the funding cut.
"They aren't saving any money by doing what they are doing," said Maggio. "If we quit patrolling that portion of the county, which we have patrolled for them in the past, they are going to have to go out and protect that area. And if they say they need X amount of calls, that doesn't make any difference, if it was one call, it was one they didn't answer."
When questioned about the county's decision to cut East Carbon's funding, County Commissioner John Jones explained that over $2 million had been cut from the county budget for 2014.
"We cut every department," explained Jones. "We got every budget and then told the department heads that they needed to cut out 15 percent, feeling that individual administrators knew their departments better than we did."
Jones stated that he believed the county's decision to cut patrol funding to East Carbon came at the recommendation of Sheriff James Cordova.
Cordova was called, but was not able to get in touch with the paper at press time.
"We were able to make the cuts without laying anybody off in 2014," continued Jones. "But because of a loss in centrally assessed property tax we decided to make the cuts rather than pass that loss directly on to our residents. And I feel that was the right thing to do."
EC-S will get their first opportunity to address the county at commission's regular meeting Wednesday.