Sheriff Makes Tough Decisions over Budget Cuts

HOLLISTER— After the San Benito Board of Supervisors has cut his department’s budget by 1.3 million dollars for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, San Benito County Sheriff Darren Thompson is dealing with the toughest decisions he has ever had to make since taking office 18 months ago.

Sheriff Darren Thompson

Sheriff Thompson was under the impression that his department would be spared from any cuts to the budget, but after the first round of talks that all changed.  Supervisors began to look into the department’s budget after they discovered that they still needed to make more cuts in order to balance the budget.

“I talked with other Supervisors and we agree that public safety would be our highest priority, but after looking at the cuts we had already made there was no choice but to look to see where we could make more cuts,” San Benito County Supervisor for 5th district and Vice Chairperson Jamie De La Cruz said.

San Benito County is roughly 1400 square miles with a population of 56,000 people and the Sheriff’s department is responsible for law enforcement activity from Aromas to Bitterwater.  The Sheriff’s Department will now have to patrol this area with only 20 deputies as compared to 27 as of last year.

Mandated by law to provide certain services to the entire county, Sheriff Thompson was left with no other choice but to make the cuts to his personnel.  He will lose seven patrol deputies, two correctional deputies and two secretaries and one records clerk.

“The media does not report on this but we are losing support staff as well,”  Hollister Interim Police Chief Dave Westrick said. “ We are symbiotic and without the support staff behind us to help us our job will be that much tougher.”

San Benito County at one time had a Marshal’s office and with their closure the civil workload was transferred to the Sheriff’s Department.  The Sheriff’s office acts as the County’s Coroner as well.  The Sheriff’s Department investigators handle all Coroner duties.  This means transferring the body to Monterey County for autopsies and staying there until it is finished.  The accompanying deputy is then out of town and not on patrol for the entire shift.

“Our civil duties have increased 300% with the closure of the Marshal’s office,” Sheriff Thompson said, adding, “Our deputies are serving papers to the general population which is usually location in the city and we are not patrolling the rural areas like we would like too.” Having the deputies close to the city benefits the city of Hollister as they have more officers to back them up on mutual aid calls.  The Sheriff’s department responds to 30% of the calls from the Hollister Police Department.

Although steadfast in their commitment to provide the same service to the general public with fewer personnel, the Sheriff’s office acknowledges that it will be a challenge to perform such duties. What this means to the County of San Benito is that the Sheriff’s department will have to do more with less.  With fewer deputies to respond to calls the public can possibly expect an increased response time.  The San Benito County Sheriff responds to priority-1 calls within 10 minutes, priority-2 calls within 12 minutes and low-priority calls within 30 minutes.

With higher response times and fewer deputies on patrol San Benito County residents are very concerned about their safety.  “It is never a good idea to cut any protection services. I think they should have more cops,” Hollister resident Luke H. said.  Residents are even concerned about walking their kids to school.  “I see the sheriff every time I take my kids to school. It is not a good idea to cut the sheriff, this puts a hole in my safety.” Hollister resident Leticia N. added.

One resident even made a suggestion that citizens of San Benito County should approve the sales tax initiatives that will be on the county’s next ballot.  “I think the people that can afford to pay the one cent sales tax should pay it,” Hollister resident Ernie P. stated. ”We seniors can offset the cost to them by offering a discount to them throughout the county.”

Prior to the cuts, the San Benito County Sheriff’s Department was already thought to have the lowest deputy to citizen ratio than any Sheriff’s Department in the State of California.

Sheriff Makes Tough Decisions over Budget Cuts was last modified: January 11th, 2019 by admin
Categories: San Benito