It is an honor to serve as your Sheriff of Palm Beach County, and I respectfully submit the fiscal year 2012-2013 proposed budget of $471,302,293. At the request of the County Commissioners, this proposed budget includes a six-year capital improvement plan, although 100% of this plan has been deferred in FY2013 due to budget shortfalls. This budget is the result of a structured, accountable process and reflects the funding required for provision of fundamental and essential services.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is a statutory government agency providing three mandated programs: Law Enforcement, Corrections Services in the County’s jails, and Bailiff and Court Services personnel. Florida Statute requires that we respond to all law enforcement calls for service countywide when requested, and to provide patrol and other essential services to the unincorporated area of the County. Services are also provided, for a fee, to those municipalities which have contracted with us in lieu of maintaining a municipal police department and to other agencies requesting our services.
Within the Sheriff’s Office budget is funding for services which are the statutory responsibility of the County, but which the County has entrusted to the Sheriff to provide. The most costly of these is the Corrections function, including running the two jails. County services comprise 32% of the budget. Another 10% is directly funded by users of our services, and requires no County funding. The remaining 58% of the Sheriff’s Office budget covers law enforcement and court services, as well as their associated support units.
We are entering the seventh year of declining County revenues; essentially my entire term as Sheriff. Palm Beach County has faced some very serious crime in those years: the escalating gang problem, the impact of pill mills, and the growth in crime against the elderly and children, as examples. It took the resources of the Sheriff’s Office, combined with innovative approaches and multi-agency collaboration, to contain and rein in this crime. I accomplished this by deploying my staff in ground-breaking ways while taking every cost-cutting option that could feasibly be implemented. I’ve also greatly restricted authority to hire new employees. Because of these and other initiatives, I have been able to hold the line on our funding requirements despite escalating costs that are not controllable for fuel, health insurance, and retirement contributions. In addition, I have met or exceeded the requests of the Board of County Commissioners each of the past three budget cycles to reduce the County’s overall deficit.
Addressing Crime Countywide
Holding the budget line was achieved in spite of escalating calls for service, and the impact of budget constraints on law enforcement countywide. To every local police department we are a support agency. Our Specialty Units are getting called more than ever, because local departments have had to reduce or drop theirs.
- We routinely respond to calls for assistance from the municipalities.
- Detectives and Investigators are deployed throughout the County as cities request assistance for murders and other major crimes, bomb threats, and various special unit needs.
- Supervise countywide Gang Task Force.
- Supervise countywide Prescription Drug Task Force.
- Crime Lab provides services to all municipalities.
- Air support for active pursuits is frequently requested.
- Grant funding allows us to provide trained TSA dogs to the County’s international airport, as well as to provide narcotics interdiction for State highway corridors such as Southern Boulevard (SR 80) and US441 (SR 7), which feed all areas of the County.
- PBSO Homeland Security (technology and staff) is the lead agency and addresses issues impacting not only Palm Beach County, but the entire southern five-county region.
The Sheriff’s Office doesn’t curtail services when it encounters city boundaries outside its purview, because crime knows no boundaries. The Sheriff’s Office works cooperatively with municipalities, the State Attorney’s Office, federal, State and local law enforcement agencies, and local businesses to insure the most complete deployment of resources to proactively and reactively address and prevent crime.
Law Enforcement Staffing Levels
- Law enforcement staffing levels are critically and continually monitored.
- The current law enforcement Deputy staffing level of the Sheriff’s Office is 1.96 Deputies per 1,000 service area residents, versus 2.13 in 2006. The national average is 2.0.
- Deputies per 1,000 calls for service have steadily declined since 2006 from 2.46 to 1.30, which leaves us with half the resources.
- Total calls for service have increased from 554,077 to 1,024,679 since 2006. Even factoring in the additional areas we service, this reflects an overall escalation in calls.
- No new law enforcement Deputies have been requested for the past six years.
- Vacancies are being held open as long as possible. This has an impact: the four straight years of reduced overtime budget have come to an end. The reduction in officers now requires that overtime be used to meet minimum staffing requirements. Where fiscally justified, positions will be filled.
- Reserve Officers, who are certified Deputy volunteers, fill in when court cases or illness cause a shortage, they work as Deputy back-up, and they transport prisoners (saving more than $700,000).
- Civilians trained for support are responding to low priority calls, conducting preliminary investigations of non-fatal traffic incidences, and performing traffic control.
The Demands (Impact!) of Crime
Crime is not a static or predictable element of society. We don’t start each day knowing what we will face, and exactly what resources will be required to address those situations. To illustrate, the number of weapon-related calls for service has increased 24% since 2006, each of which requires deploying additional Deputies to the scene. The spike in weapon-related calls in the chart below for 2008 and 2009 reflects the level of gang activity that was going on before I put together a countywide effort to take them off the streets.
We can’t put crime on hold while we create and deploy what we need. We can’t contain crime to one area so we can use efficiencies to address it. We can’t demand or assume that today’s crime will be of the same nature as yesterday’s. We have to be everywhere, and we have to be able to deploy all our resources with speed and effectiveness. And, crime is constantly evolving. Our Specialty Units change focus as the nature of crime changes. Our training expands to provide new skills for new situations. Our equipment and weapons and technology must keep up with the demands of the impact of crime, along with the functions of the jails, security of the courthouses and courts, evidence processing, and the services of the Crime Lab.
Our jails have become Palm Beach County’s largest mental health institution, where PBSO staff care for more mentally ill people than our local hospitals, halfway houses, and clinics combined. They constitute as much as 20% of the daily inmate population. I firmly believe that we must be at our best when caring for people in need at their worst moments. As such, I’ve taken steps to provide more training to my Deputies, work more closely with our community partners to prevent incarceration, and expand our Behavioral Services Unit in its follow-up to assist families in dealing with this issue. With legislators in Tallahassee proposing dramatic cuts to mental health services, law enforcement is expecting to bear the brunt, with more mentally ill people ending up in handcuffs instead of treatment.
The Agency also emphasizes working with the youth of our community, to mentor them, show them alternatives to drugs and gangs, and introduce them to the opportunities in front of them. One major program doing this is the Police Athletic League (PAL). This is not a nice-to-have program, it is a need-to-have. These young people are given an alternative to get off the streets and do something productive. They learn integrity and sportsmanship through sports, learn computer skills, and work on community projects.
Alternative Funding Resources
Two significant funding sources are central to the Agency. The first is forfeiture funds, arising from cases in which cash or other assets are seized and subsequently released to a law enforcement agency. These come from both the State and federal governments, and are used to purchase equipment which could not otherwise be funded, as well as to provide funding to community agencies which augment our efforts to affect quality of life and provide alternatives and support to all residents.
The second is our grant program, which annually generates millions of dollars. These funds have allowed the creation of the multi-million dollar Regional Fusion Center, one of only seventy in the nation. Operated by the PBSO Homeland Security Bureau, this Center is used by local, State and federal agencies to coordinate efforts and share real-time information regarding situational awareness and monitoring of criminal activity, with the primary goal of detecting and deterring terrorist acts and other criminal activity. Grant funding has also purchased boats to patrol the 245 square miles of waterway in the County, and the 45 miles of shoreline. It has funded overtime to allow for long-term investigations. We not only research and apply for grants, but we also administer them. Our staff has passed external audits and reviews so successfully that grantors have modeled our approach in other agencies.
Functional Budget Level
We’re at the functional floor of funding to maintain required levels of service. To get there I have, regretfully, eliminated programs and services that were beneficial to the community but not mandated by the State or federal government.
- Deputies have been pulled from the County’s parks, saving $7.0M a year.
- The Drug Farm was closed, saving $2.6M a year.
- The Eagle Academy was closed, saving $4.5M a year.
- Funding for the Criminal Justice Service Center was eliminated, saving $0.3M a year.
I have also created other cost savings.
- Redirected funding for the Juvenile Assessment Center to non-ad valorem dollars, saving $0.3M a year.
- Reassigned inmate transport services to the volunteer Reserve Officers, saving $0.7M a year.
- Directed that cross-district deployment of Road Patrol be initiated, saving overtime.
- Increased employee contributions for health care and associated co-pays.
- Aggressively renegotiated major PBSO contracts. The Inmate Medical services contract renegotiation saved almost $1.0M a year. The audit and renegotiation of the inmate telephone contract resulted in additional revenues of $0.3M.
- Our Wellness Center, opened less than three years ago, is already providing substantial savings in our health care renewal cost.
- Workers’ Compensation and General Liability budgets reflect the actuarial’s lowest risk category.
- Vehicle fuel, which is a substantial budget, was based on a price of $4.00/gallon, versus the $4.50 used by the County. That’s reducing the budget by $1.3M.
- Worked with Alarm companies to reduce false alarms in 2011 by 30%, reducing the Road Patrol workload by more than 21,000 cases annually.
- Buyouts have reduced the number of tenured staff substantially, and those positions are being held vacant as long as possible.
- Initiated an in-house vehicle warranty service program with certification of our mechanics, allowing vehicles to be driven longer without replacement. Savings from buyouts have allowed me to maintain the fleet without requiring capital funding from the County.
- We have aggressively assumed the jails’ average daily population to remain low, and have instituted programs to assist in that goal.
- We have budgeted sworn vacancies at 75%, further restricting the ability to hire as requirements demand. We have budgeted only one in four civilian positions.
- Employees have not had a COLA increase in four years.
Finally, we have taken steps to increase non-ad valorem funding where possible.
- Increased employee fuel contribution.
- Increased Federal Inmate daily rates.
- Increased Alarm Permit fees.
- Increased Off Duty Permit fees.
- Increased Prisoner Subsistence fee.
Our volunteer force continues to grow each year, and each hour represents a cost savings. These citizens are very dedicated and maintain a very high level of professionalism, and are fully integrated into the Agency. We currently have more than 3,000 volunteers, in addition to the Reserve Officers. Each year the Citizens Observer Patrol (COP) volunteers provide more than 320,000 hours of service, conservatively valued at over $7.0M. These COP volunteers are our eyes and ears in communities, and over 100 are certified to write handicap parking violation tickets. We also rely on other civilian volunteers for Chaplain services, victim counselors, mentoring and programs for County youth, and administrative tasks within PBSO. Over 30,000 hours a year are given, valued at over $0.6M.
Reasonable and Necessary
State statute requires that I submit a budget that is reasonable and necessary. My signature on this budget proposal certifies that the proposed budget meets those requirements. Effective law enforcement, corrections services, and court services are a requirement.
Being a Deputy Sheriff is not like most other jobs. Every day when Deputies put on their uniform and report for duty, they know that they are putting their lives at risk in order to protect people who in most cases are complete strangers to them. Deputies face deadly risks every day, and have a commitment that is a quantum level higher than in other jobs.
Our mission is to safeguard the lives and property of the people and communities we serve, to reduce crime, and to enhance public safety while working with our diverse communities to improve their quality of life. I will continue to work with the Board of County Commissioners to ensure adequate funding to meet the operational needs of the Sheriff’s Office, and to provide the highest level of law enforcement for the safety of the citizens of Palm Beach County.
Ric L. Bradshaw, Sheriff