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Sheriff: Summit County needs more deputies

Two new deputies could soon be patrolling the streets of Summit County.

Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said he plans to use funding from the federal government to hire the new officers.

"In the end, it wouldn’t cost us a whole lot at all for the first three years," Edmunds told members of the Summit County Council.

But according to Summit County Manager Bob Jasper, "if we get this grant, we will have to agree to pick up the funding for the deputies in the future."

After 36 months, the county would not have the option of laying off the new deputies for at least another year.

"The need for law enforcement in Summit County is not decreasing, it’s increasing," Edmunds said.

Between about 2003 and 2008, the Sheriff’s Office hired from four to seven new full-time employees each year. Not all of those were deputies.

"We’re going to be asking for deputies over the course of the next three years," Edmunds said. "There is no doubt about that."

But putting an entry-level deputy on the road costs nearly $120,000 in the first year.

Councilpersons said they support Edmunds’ grant application.

"I’m all in favor of taking advantage of that," Summit County Councilwoman Sally Elliott said.

According to Edmunds, "these grants have come and gone over the last 15 years."

"There is more money typically, when there is a Democrat in the White House, for these types of issues," the sheriff added.

The Summit County Sheriff’s Office has about 1.8 deputies for every 1,000 people. According to Edmunds, the Department of Justice has recommended departments staff roughly 2.5 peace officers per 1,000 full-time residents.

"Those are the minimum numbers that they need to engage in the type of programming, the type of enforcement efforts and the type of educational efforts they need to be engaged in, to have a well-rounded law enforcement agency," Edmunds said. "We don’t have that in Summit County."

The county has a population of about 45,000, Edmunds said.

"Summit County’s full-time population is a lot more than what we currently report it at," he said. "We have a significant number of undocumented folks in this community."

Calls to the Sheriff’s Office for service have nearly quadrupled since 2000, Edmunds said.

"So in 10 years we’ve experienced tremendous growth," he said. "We haven’t seen a major increase in criminal activity. But how long can we sustain that if we don’t continue to grow as the needs of the department grow?"

The Sheriff’s Office has about 130 full-time employees. Edmunds said about 52 of those are patrol deputies.

"We’re not even up to the national standard in peace officer numbers," he said. "One of my stated objectives is to get us to those national standards."

But budgets are tight and several County Courthouse employees lost their jobs last year.

"We don’t want to overly burden the county in an economic downturn," Edmunds said. "That’s why I’m trying to be creative. I’m trying to be responsible in going out and trying to find federal money for additional deputies because we certainly need them. But I haven’t asked for them over the last couple years because I knew we couldn’t afford them."


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