Ada County is growing at an incredible rate. Since the last US Census in 2010, Ada County has gained 78,500 new residents – from 392,000 to 471,000. Forbes.com has christened Boise as the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the U.S. All that growth represents a significant and growing strain on Ada County’s infrastructure.
For the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, those demographic changes mean more citizen calls for service, more demands for our deputies’ time, more inmates in the Ada County Jail — and more work by support staff to keep everything running safely and efficiently.
Frankly put, we need more employees to make sure we can continue to deliver the services necessary to keep Ada County a safe place to live, work and play.
To do that to the best of our ability, we are asking the Ada County Board of Commissions for an additional $4.7 million to our budget so we can add 39 new employees in 2019. If that seems like a lot to ask for, well, it is – but it’s also way overdue.
We have been very conservative on adding new personnel over the last decade and it has caught up to us. That strain is most keenly felt in the Ada County Jail.
We have room for 1116 inmates in our main jail facility. To operate with safety and efficiency, we need to be at 85% capacity or less. That equals 949 inmates – a number that stretches our resources to their limits.
We haven’t been under 949 since May 2017. We routinely have days where the count is over 1,100. On May 31 of this year, we hit a record high of 1,127.
While our long term needs require a significant infrastructure investment in more beds, our immediate need is to catch up with our staff. There are times where we have an inmate-to-deputy ratio in our dorm housing units of 1-to-100. Our ratios are not much better in our medium and maximum-security units.
That’s why we are asking to add eight deputies and two sergeants to our jail staff. We also need two non-commissioned jail security employees to add to our staff that work our security systems, two more clerks to deal with inmate records, and another food service security deputy so the food service staff can focus on food prep and inmate management — all to keep up with our burgeoning jail population.
One of the biggest challenges we face at the jail is the growing number of inmates who have specific medical needs or need to take medication. Our Health Services Unit is doing more exams, first aid, and patient diagnosis than ever.
We need to be able to do medical screenings on inmates as they are booked into the jail, instead of playing catch-up.
To do that, we need to add eight nurses — and a nurse supervisor — to our booking unit to do medical screenings on every inmate going into the jail. This will also get our jail current with the National Committee on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) standards.
Having a nurse do medical screenings eliminates the risk for deputies attempting to make medical analysis and decisions for inmates and helps protect us from potential liability down the line.
We also need to add two more jail deputies in our Health Services Unit to keep up with the growing population of that area, which can hold up to 84 inmates.
The strain of growing population has not just affected our jail staff. Our patrol deputies in north Ada County have to cover 226 square miles — and 1,300 miles of roads — in an area that has added homes over a large area.
Currently, we have one sergeant and five deputies that cover all that area. We want to add one more deputy to both north patrol teams to provide better and faster coverage, as that area continues to expand.
We need to add some other employees and resources to key areas in the ACSO, including:
* An additional Victim Witness Coordinator to keep up with the increase in – and complexity of — calls for service.
* A new Forensic Quality Manager for our crime lab so we don’t have to rely on the backlogged Idaho State Police crime lab to process evidence.
* Four new deputies to add to our court transports team, which is on track to move a record-high 20,000+ inmates this year between jail, courts, medical, and legal appointments all over the county.
* Two new technology systems application employees to help manage and support all 84 of our computer/software systems.
* Three new deputies to bolster our training staff, as we prepare to run our own, POST-approved patrol and jail deputy academies for new hires.
* An additional appropriation of $1.2 million to cover overtime for all ACSO deputies.
The Ada County Sheriff’s Office currently has 674 employees and an initial $67.1 million budget appropriation for 2019. Our new proposal, which also includes some infrastructure funds, sets our budget request at $72.7 million and would increase our total staff to just over 700 employees.
The Idaho Constitution requires the office of the sheriff to preserve the peace, arrest all who attempt or commit a public offense, prevent and suppress breaches of peace, take charge of and keep the county jail, and regulate traffic on all highways and roads.
We are always striving to do that to the best of our ability. We are also totally committed to fiscal responsibility and getting the absolute most out of every tax dollar. We wouldn’t be asking for such an increase in staffing unless it was totally necessary to help ensure the rapidly growing Ada County remains a safe place to live, work, and play.
Sheriff Steve Bartlett went over our budget request with the Ada County Board of Commissioners last week.
Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wx3UsIOW2hU and advance the video to the 2:13 mark if you would like to see that presentation.
The Ada County Board of Commissioners will make their final budget decisions following deliberations, which are happening all week long. You can watch those live at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbIOFbUfFOo