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Sheriff: Need funds to outfit deputies

Bullet-proof vests, shields among equipment sought

The massacre in California had Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless going back to county commission for a third time asking for upgrades in equipment for his deputies.

On Wednesday a county employee in San Bernardino and his wife, wielding assault rifles, killed 14 and seriously wounded about 20 more. Authorities have yet to confirm if the violence was workplace grudge or terrorism.

“It is not far-fetched that something like that could happen here,” Lawless told the Lawrence County Commissioners at their Thursday meeting. “In the past in several letters I have presented needing munitions, ballistics and training. I stand up here and ask for money so the sheriff’s office can be brought up to a level where we could react to a situation. Our staffing levels are very low. We have no way to combat immediately. Our office is in dire need.”

Among the equipment requested are ballistic shields and vests, tear gas, rubber bullets and spike strips, costing approximately $100,000, Lawless said.

Commission president Les Boggs responded by advising the sheriff to go to Monday’s budget commission meeting to make his request.

“I went to the budget commission (in the past) and asked them to consider that request and certify the money,” Boggs said. “That is last we heard from the budget commission. We divvy out the money but don’t decide how much to divvy up.”

Lawless said he expects to attend the budget commission meeting.

“I am hopeful the budget commission will be able to provide the necessary funds,” he said.

Before the county commission can determine the budget for the year, the budget commission, made up of the county auditor, county prosecutor and county treasurer, certifies the amount of funds the county can budget.

“We do our job of determining the revenue of the county,” Lawrence County Auditor Jason Stephens said. “It is the county commission’s job to determine the priorities. The budget commission can’t create revenue because there is a need. There may be a great need. That is where the commissioners have to step up and make the tough decisions. And for Mr. Boggs to try to blame the budget commission for the sheriff not having the equipment that is needed is simply not the truth.”

Director of the county department of job and family services Terry Porter asked the commission to sit down with him to come up with a security plan for his department.

“We have the most traffic and deal with angry clients,” he said. “We have many people come in and are arrested. They are high on drugs, wanting to fight with an employee.”

Boggs said one of the commissioners would meet with Porter.

In other action the commission:

• Heard from EMS director Buddy Fry that two new ambulances have been ordered;

• Approved the billing agreement for the EMS with MCA Billing;

• Received the weekly dog warden report for Nov. 7 where no dogs were euthanized, 22 were adopted or went to rescue and none redeemed by their owner; and for Nov. 14 where one dog was euthanized, 10 adopted or sent to rescue and none redeemed.