06/16/08 — Sheriff Winders explains need for more deputies

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Sheriff Winders explains need for more deputies

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 16, 2008 1:46 PM

Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders said he wants the public to understand why he is asking county commissioners for eight new deputies during a time of tight budgets and shrinking revenues.

Winders appeared before the commissioners at a budget work session last week to renew his request for the eight patrol deputies.

Commissioners took no action, but county Manager Lee Smith is recommending a year-long hiring freeze.

Commissioners have vowed not to increase the tax rate.

Smith said it would cost about $500,000 to hire eight new deputies, along with all of the necessary equipment, including vehicles.

During the session, commissioners had praise for Winders and his officers. But they made no move to grant his request.

Winders said it has been about five years since he has been able to add a significant number of deputies to patrol the county. Those deputies were obtained through the COPS program. The disadvantage of the program was the amount of paperwork that almost required a full-time person to handle, Winders said. Since then his office has only been able to "add an officer here and a detective there," Winders said.

But the county's population growth and an increase in the number of calls are stretching the patrol deputies thin, he said.

"What were once bean fields are now subdivisions and mobile home parks," Winders told commissioners at the Thursday meeting.

He noted that deputies responded to 28,587 calls in 2007, up from 17,327 in 2006, Winders said. From 2000 to 2007, the number of arrests increased from 2,992 to 3,520.

Winders said he hears complaints about the time it takes a deputy to respond to a call. Because of the sheer volume of calls, central dispatch is being forced to prioritize, he said. That means that a complaint about loud music takes a back seat to a fight or domestic violence call. However, all the person who calls about the loud music sees is that it takes a long time for a deputy to respond.

Winders said he also hears comments about the number of deputies seen driving around in Goldsboro, Mount Olive and the county's other municipalities.

In most cases those are not patrol deputies, they are part of the office's civil/warrant unit. The Sheriff's Office has to serve warrants and civil papers for the entire county.

No other law enforcement agency in the state can discharge that duty. Only sheriff's deputies can serve those papers.

Winders said he knows that fuel consumption is a problem. In fact, Smith has implemented an administrative policy governing the idling of county-owned vehicles.

The county is currently divided into patrol zones. Hiring more deputies would allow the zones to be smaller, meaning that deputies' travel areas would be smaller thereby saving on mileage and gas, Winders said, noting that Wayne contains 557 square miles.

Regardless of what commissioners decide, Winders said his office would "continue to do the best we can. I just wanted the public to be aware. It is tough when a citizen calls and wants a deputy and dispatch has to prioritize the call.

"The commissioners have always worked well with me. It is a hard pill to swallow when you are asked to do something without the additional resources," he said.