Sheriff needs funding for safety equipment - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Sheriff needs funding for safety equipment

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Dougherty County Commissioners may be headed for a showdown with the Sheriff. He says they're not giving his office enough money, and some deputies will have to go without bullet proof vests, patrol car cameras, and tasers.

The Sheriff met with the finance committee today to try to get money for those items put back in the budget.

Serving civil papers can be a dangerous job, just ask the Dougherty County Sheriff's deputies on the front lines tracking probation violators and others.

"You never know, when you go inside a house, something they're hiding behind a door, you never know what you're going to encounter when you go inside," said Dougherty County Sheriff's Sgt. Eddie Jackson.

Probation violator Dennis Barnes was arrested without incident, but right now, some deputies are doing their work without a bullet proof vests, although commissioners say they've never been needed before.

"I want all of my deputies, who have direct contact with the public, whether it's transporting an inmate to mental institutions to serving warrants or working the courts. I wanted my certified deputies in vests for their own protection," said Dougherty Sheriff Kevin Sproul. 

Sheriff Sproul asked for eight vests, but with a tight budget the county commission hasn't funded the equipment. The proposed budget also cuts video cameras for two night patrol cars and four taser guns. Deputies say a taser gives them an alternative to lethal force.

"I was running him down, his brother was chasing me and my partner was chasing after him. I did not know anything behind me all I knew I was going after the guy I'm after and when I made contact with him he still wanted to struggle with me," said Dougherty County Sheriff's Deputy James Adams. 

Sheriff Sproul says he understands the tight economic situation and has raised background check fees, reduced overtime costs, and parked 11 take home vehicles to help his budget, but worries cutting merit, longevity, and cost of living increases could cost him deputies.

"We've had two of our employees that are going to go to work for APD and we have three more that's going to be interviewed. We've lost one individual to the military police."

Every county department was forced to cut cost of living raises. Members of the finance committee say while other departments made cuts, the Sheriff's office asked for a seven percent increase.

The proposed budget provides $15.5 million for the Sheriff's office.  That's 35% of the county's budget, and commissioners say that should provide the Sheriff enough resources to get his job done.

The county finance committee will meet again Wednesday to consider the equipment requests and is expected to make their first presentation of the budget to the entire Commission on Monday.

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