Grants, funding key in sheriff candidates' plans
Law enforcement block grants targeted by Ruark, Davis
Both candidates for Barry County sheriff know whoever is elected, one thing is for certain, funding will be key to any new personnel or equipment.
For that reason, both have been researching grant possibilities, with the Missouri Office of Public Safety's law enforcement block grants taking the majority of the attention, but they are not the only ones.
Barry County Deputy Justin "Dave" Ruark, D-Cassville, said another grant, given by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, may be a possibility.
"Those are used to hire or rehire 5 percent of the office's force for three years, with salary and benefits paid, then the county would have to pick up the fourth year," he said. "I'm looking into more grants and still need to do more research. Whether I am elected or not, this is valuable information, and if I do get elected, I want all my ducks in a row."
Former FBI Agent Gary Davis, R-Cassville, said he has done some research, but also still has more to do. Along with mentioning the law enforcement block grants as a possibility, Davis said there are other grants that may help with overtime pay and enforcement of driving while intoxicated laws.
"The [High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas] program, with our meth problem, is something we'd probably be in good position for," he said. That would fund overtime for narcotics enforcement in connection with the drug task force."
Davis said not many grants would increase personnel, but some would give money for training or overtime to reserves to fill in if deputies are tied up.
"There are a ton of grants to buy everything from apples to zebras, and all of them have strings attached," Davis said. "Some require a 5-10 percent match, and the question is, does that fit our needs."
Davis said there are a lot of little needs he would seek grant money for, all in an effort to better-equip and more safely-equip Barry County law enforcement.
"None of our patrol officers have cameras, so many have to take pictures of crime scenes for evidence with their cell phones," he said. "I had one deputy a couple weeks ago show me a photo of a footprint at a crime scene he had to take with his iPhone. It's simple things like that the public may never notice, but it makes us more effective."
Ruark said one thing he has continually said he plans to do is attack the drug problem, and he is seeking grant funding to help in that endeavor.
"I have spoken to two POST-certified individuals, one that has agreed to be a full-time narcotics officer, and another who has agreed to handle a K-9 unit," he said. "They would work as a team."
Ruark said the pair would be part of a restructure of the department, not adding to any current personnel.
"The K-9 would depend on funding to get it done, and there are grants that could cover that cost," he said. "First, I wanted to talk to them to make sure they would accept the positions, and now, I'm putting everything together to get the funding squared away."
Davis said the only issue with grant money is all the stipulations that come along with them, such as reports that have to accommodate applications, or policies that must be in place to qualify.
"There are other ones I am aware of," he said. "Like Walmart has a law enforcement grant, but I have not looked at that one yet. There are other non-governmental agencies, like the Community Foundation here in town, that give $500 to $1,000 grants. I want to get every penny we can to get the deputies and jail personnel the tools they need to safely do their jobs. That's my No. 1 goal."
Another issue surrounding funding is the tax rate, with sales taxes going to law enforcement being funneled through the county's general fund.
Ruark said he does not believe taxes should change regarding law enforcement.
"No one likes to pay more taxes, and I believe it would a better benefit to get grants secured and not add any more tax burden to the community," he said.
Davis said the office surely needs more funding, not for a Cadillac department, he said, but just to meet the bare bones equal to other same-sized departments around the country.
"The tax rate is what the citizens of Barry County currently want," he said. "But, we need more personnel and equipment, and money for higher wages, and only the people could go to the commission and convey wishes for a law enforcement tax. If they did that, I would be more than happy to give a dollar-by-dollar plan to show people where every penny would go. If the people want to greatly improve law enforcement, they would have to bring that up."
With the current sales taxes being distributed through the general fund, the question of the sheriff's control of law enforcement budgeting is key.
Ruark said before answering how much control he would want to have over the budget, he wants to become more acclimated with the budgeting process.
Davis said any sheriff would want total control, but he realizes he does not operate in a vacuum.
"I know the 1/8-cent was voted for law enforcement, and the sheriff and prosecutor certainly need to have input on how each penny of that is spent," he said. "I'm not saying total control, but I do want a seat at the table and want to work with the commission."
Ruark and Davis will square off in the Nov. 8 election.