LETTER: Gahler Declines Meeting With Sheriff
Jeffrey Gahler says Sheriff L. Jesse Bane should discuss staffing levels with the public.
Jeffrey Gahler submitted a letter to local media in recent weeks criticizing comments about staffing levels made by the current sheriff.
Gahler, a Republican who lost the race for Harford County sheriff by less than a 3 percent margin in 2010, contends Sheriff L. Jesse Bane presented false information about the ratio of deputies to the population.
Bane responded by talking with Patch and writing his own letter to the editor. In his responses, Bane said the numbers do not reflect all sworn officers, but rather the numbers the sheriff's office alone has to police the county.
Gahler submitted a second letter on the topic in response to Bane's comments.
In Bane's letter, he extends an invitation to discuss the matter with Gahler.
In Gahler's most recent response, included below, he declines the invitation and outlines the issue of staffing levels as he sees it.
Here is Gahler's third, unedited letter on the subject in its entirety:
Sheriff Bane has proposed a meeting to discuss staffing figures. I must decline his offer, as I wholeheartedly believe that I am not the appropriate audience. The audience is each and every citizen of Harford County who deserves to be addressed, accurately and with respect. It is only fair as it is the citizens who fund the public safety efforts of the Sheriff’s Office and it is the citizens who deserve the whole story.
Sheriff Bane has already affirmed that the information I have brought forth was (and remains) completely accurate. In addition, I fully understand how Sheriff Bane is arriving at his staffing level statements and, as I have stressed, the statistics he has chosen to defend are grossly misleading. When used in any official police reference, the average number of officers per 1,000 population includes all sworn officers employed by all police departments serving a population, regardless of the assignment of those officers.
If we are willing to look closer at the average of .8 patrol deputies per 1,000 residents in the manner provided and preferred by Sheriff Bane, it would mean that what he is trying to say is there are roughly 197 sworn road deputies available to aid the county’s 247,000 residents (formula: (197/247,000)x1000 = 0.8) and that the other roughly 100 sworn members of the Sheriff Office do not count and the officers of the allied law enforcement agencies who serve portions of Harford County’s population also do not count. That is how you mathematically arrive at .8 officers per 1,000 residents. Now Sheriff Bane wants to take this personal calculation and greatly increase staffing levels that are still based on statements related to ratios and not actionable data. With initial statements related to a goal of 2.7 deputies per 1,000 residents, the Sheriff would have to add 470 more positions to the Patrol force, a 238% increase to the Sheriff’s Office staffing. Since this issue was brought to light, Sheriff Bane has toned down his staffing statements and most recently spoke of his desire to get to 1.5 deputies per 1,000 residents. In order to reach the 1.5 ratio, he would still be adding another 173 sworn positions, or 88% more patrol deputies.
To look at these staffing increases in the form of fiscal impact, based on salary figures obtained from the FY 2011 Harford County Budget for a Deputy First Class, Sheriff Bane is proposing that Harford County residents finance an additional $12,000,000 to $32,000,000 to the Sheriff’s Office’s budget each year. This conservatively estimated increased burden on the taxpayers does not take into consideration training, equipment, and vehicles, or the fact that many of the additional positions would need to be at supervisory and command ranks.
As stated previously, I am not debating whether additional personnel are needed. There may very well be a need for additional patrol personnel. The point is, Harford County residents and taxpayers deserve to have these needs articulated correctly and based on clearly relayed and factual data. Using staffing comments that leave a question of somewhere between 173 to 470 additional employees and a potential 50 % increase in the Sheriff’s Office Budget seems irresponsible at best.
Should Sheriff Bane like to meet with me on the myriad of other issues pertaining to the safety of our families, friends and communities here in Harford County, I would gladly offer my nearly 30 years of policing experience to the mix. I have been very fortunate to have served in numerous administrative, operational and tactical assignments during my state-wide law enforcement career and can offer a more global perspective on a wide array of public safety issues.
For example and perhaps as a starting point, effective staffing and the safety of our Correctional Deputies assigned to the Harford County Detention Center are one of the important items I would like to discuss. During my 2010 campaign, I offered my commitment and my plan to add additional Correctional Deputies prior to the opening of the new expansion of the facility. Today, a year and a half from Election Day, the Sheriff has opened parts of the new Detention Center expansion without additional staff. This is a safety issue. The safety of our deputies, staff, inmates and our citizens and neighborhoods is very important to me. With a record number of in-custody deaths under Sheriff Bane’s watch, I am disappointed that he does not turn his efforts to effectively staffing the Detention Center.
Jeffrey R. Gahler