In front of a somber crowd, the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a measure Tuesday morning to trim the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department budget by $6.4 million, effectively forcing the lay off of 52 full-time sheriff’s department employees and deleting 16 vacant positions.
Additionally, the sheriff’s department will have to close down portions of the county honor farm and cease all operations at the substations located around the county.
“I know that we, like all the other departments, have to make cuts, but not to the point of risking a safe community,” Sheriff Adam Christianson told the Board of Supervisors.
The sheriff’s department, like all other county departments, has been tasked with cutting 9 percent of their budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Last year, when other departments slashed 12 percent from their budget, public safety agencies took a 5 percent cut.
Christianson said he was reluctantly turning in these budget cuts to the Board, but hoped they would compromise and only cut 5 to 6 percent.
“A unilateral cut does not show public safety to be a priority,” he said.
Supervisor Will O’Brien said it was a tough decision to make, but that everyone has to take the cuts.
“We are only in year two of a three year budget cycle,” O’Brien said. “In year three you’re going to see cuts that quite frankly, will disseminate some programs and I have a feeling that will be to the benefit of public safety.”
The layoffs will be dispersed among operations, detention and administration. As the numbers stand now, when the layoffs take effect on June 26, on any one day, there will be 28 deputies split over three shifts patrolling the county.
As part of cost-cutting measures, the sheriff’s department will be closing three of the four barracks at the honor farm in Modesto, which will reduce the housed inmates from 356 to 86 and release 270 inmates onto the streets. Christianson said the sheriff’s and probation departments are looking into the use of a Day Reporting Center as a way to address the inmate reductions.
The budget cuts are also bringing to an end the department’s use of decentralized operations. Started in 2008, decentralization used substations as a sort of home base away from the main offices on Hackett Road in Modesto. Now, those substations — like those in Denair and Salida — either have been closed or are slated for closure soon.
Several deputies and community members took the opportunity Tuesday to express their concerns about the cuts in service coinciding with the release of felons.
Bonnie Driskell is the mother of Lacy Ferguson, whose fatal shooting outside a Modesto convenience store remains unsolved. Driskell cautioned the Board that the cuts they were about to make could be very short-sighted.
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