Tippecanoe County Sheriff Barry Richard says his department needs to add 26 employees over the next five years to keep up with demand for services.
That total includes 10 additional deputies to patrol roads, 10 correctional officers to work in the jail, three dispatchers, two bailiffs and an administrative assistant for the detective division.
Richard says the five-year plan is based on criteria such as the volume of calls for help and the number of deputies per capita.
The county currently employs 52 deputies, but Richard says sick leave and vacation time often leave just five patrol cars on the road.
He says West Lafayette police provided backup for county deputies 237 times in the Klondike area last year because other deputies were miles away.
“In a 503 square mile county, to cover that much area with only five deputies, is not the responsible or safe number for manpower to be had,” he says. “But that’s what we’re working for, and that’s why we came up with the strategic plan.”
Richard also says deputies and corrections officers are dealing with increasingly violent offenders, as well as more people with mental health and drug problems.
He says that’s raising safety concerns for jail staff.
“We’ve had correctional officers who’ve been sucker-punched, that have been held with a pencil to their throat or something of that magnitude where it’s not your every day, “No, I don’t want to do that,” or “I’m not going to do that,” or “Get out of here,” or to curse or whatever it is,” Richard says.
“That’s not what’s happening. It’s a much more serious type of environment.”
He estimates the county payroll would increase by one-point-five million dollars a year once all 26 positions are added over the course of the five-year plan.
But County Council President Dave Williams says the county anticipates a revenue increase of about 300-thousand dollars a year over that span, meaning almost all available dollars would go to the sheriff’s department from 2017 through 2021.
The council will consider the sheriff’s request in August when the county budget is developed for next year.