OP-ED: It’s time to hire more deputies



Sheriff Oscar Carrillo on Monday night offered an impassioned plea to commissioners asking for more deputies. As he put it, “We’re overwhelmed.”

The Advocate will not publish the number of deputies that serve Culberson County for public safety reasons, but without any doubt, that number is entirely too low.

Deputies work 12-hour shifts, and that puts a huge strain on all deputies, but the officers remain loyal to the town and to the county, and they work on their days off, and as needed.

The mental stress put on these officers can only last so long. Mr. Carrillo said on Monday night that the officers have expressed their desire for time off instead of being compensated with comp time or overtime.

Commissioners went into closed session to discuss this matter,  and after a short closed session meeting, they came back and said they were willing to look at hiring one officer during the current budget year — after they had looked at the budget.

Mr. Carrillo said he couldn’t wait until the start of the new fiscal year in October because the situation was nearing crisis stage. Commissioners don’t really have a choice in the matter. They can say they want to look at the numbers, but what the sheriff is asking for is not a squad car or a new stove for the jail.

Without going into specifics, again for public safety concerns, commissioners must fund one new deputy immediately. The money is there, and they know it. The sheriff has been asking for more help for a long time, but, the response he has received has been that he has to do a better job of scheduling. That’s a ridiculous statement.

The editor asked the sheriff what the ideal number of deputies would be to cover the huge territory (3,800 square miles) in Culberson County. That number won’t be printed here. It’s a reasonable number, and one that commissioners should fund in the next fiscal year.

The issue is ensuring the public safety of all the citizens of the county We don’t have a police department that can be dispatched to 911 calls within the city limits. The deputies are responsible for all 911 calls inside the city limits and outside the city limits.

The sheriff said on Monday that he had just returned from a meeting in Pecos because the Eddy County and Reeves County sheriffs had summoned him to tell him that something has to give. Eddy County is north of the county in Carlsbad, where it’s relatively close for those deputies to assist any incidents that might occur at the Orla drilling sites. Reeves County (Pecos) has also been inundated with the oil boom that has come to Pecos, and the very large number of transients that are living anywhere they can while they’re working for the oil and gas companies.

Although deputies are obligated to service the Orla area in northeast Culberson County, the sheriff said it is mathematically impossible to do so because of the distance, which is about 120 miles, taking the Pecos route. The Reeves and Eddy County sheriffs have been good to Culberson County because they know that much of what happens in northeast Culberson County is directly related to the oil activity that originates from Reeves and Eddy Counties.

The bottom line is that we shouldn’t be in this situation. Public safety should be the Number One priority of the county. Politics should be tossed aside so that all of us, including the deputies should never be in danger.

That is not the current situation.  The sheriff said he would apply for more grants for deputies’ overtime and other compensation, but grants are not always a given. That means that it falls squarely on the commissioners to do the right thing.

Next week, commissioners are supposed to make a decision about the hiring of one deputy. for the current fiscal year Let’s see what they do for Fiscal Year 2015.

If commissioners are concerned about the Sheriff’s Office performance, they should be able to ask for performance evaluations to ensure that the increase in staff is not merely an empty request. Nonetheless, there are other more serious issues that commissioners will have to confront in the event a major event transpires that can be traced to insufficient staffing.

If that happens, commissioners will wish they had done the right thing from the outset.


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