Funding for sheriff#039;s office is a necessity

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 18, 2003

Tribune editorial staff

Suddenly, a noise awakens you. Startled from sleep, your mind races at 90 miles per hour as your ears try to decipher the cause of the noise.

Within a split second, you realize your worst fears are fast becoming a reality. Someone is breaking into your house.

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Quickly, you call 911 and then you wait.

Halfway across the county, a Lawrence County sheriff's deputy gets the call. He shifts the cruiser into drive and speeds to the scene. It's a scene that plays out more often than we'd like to admit. It's not that Lawrence County is rife with crime, such crime occurs all across America.

However, Lawrence County residents are at a slight disadvantage. Cuts in funding have left the county's chief law enforcement agency woefully under funded, understaffed and under equipped.

Consider the scenario above and factor in a few sad facts. Realize that the deputy being called may be only one of two on duty that night. That means sometimes two patrol deputies cover a county of more than 60,000 people. Then, realize that the cruiser in which the deputy drives probably has more than 100,000 miles on it. Finally, consider what would happen if you were calling from near Waterloo and the deputy was just finishing another call outside Athalia. It's not a comforting thought, is it?

Unfortunately, that is the kind of safety roulette citizens and law enforcement officers play each and every day. Last week, Lawrence County Sheriff Tim Sexton appeared before the county commissioners asking for help. The sheriff's budget has been tight for years, but the loss of a COPS grant earlier this year has made the situation direr.

The sheriff needs more funding fast or he will be forced to begin cutting staff. County commissioners stopped short of committing to do whatever it takes to prevent that from happening. If commissioners see fiscal fat in the sheriff's budget, they should point it out quickly. Otherwise, they need to look around and do whatever it takes to locate the funding the sheriff's office needs before one of those midnight scenarios becomes a reality and someone gets hurt unnecessarily.