Rescue plan

Justices of the Peace to Consider Funding New MPs Using Rescue Plan

The Garland County Quorum Court will consider an order Monday evening appropriating $ 119,317 of the county’s American Rescue Plan Act allowance to fund two new deputy sheriff’s department positions.

The county will receive the balance of its $ 19 million ARPA allocation later this year. In November, the quorum court allocated $ 598,120 of federal money to fund $ 1,200 in bonuses for full-time county workers.

The county did not receive the Justice Department’s community policing grant it requested in July, according to a list of grant recipients the Department of Justice announced in a November press release. The county has requested partial federal funding for six new assistant positions.

The grant would have paid 70% of the salaries of new hires for three years, requiring the county to fully fund the positions for at least a year after the grant funding ends. The DOJ said the Hot Springs and West Helena Police Department were the only law enforcement agencies in Arkansas to have received grants to hire more officers. The Hot Springs Police Department received a grant of $ 625,000 to partially fund five new uniformed positions.

The $ 5.8 million budget that the quorum court approved for the sheriff’s department execution operations in 2022 funded more than 30 patrol assistant positions. The Sheriff’s Department said the two new assistant positions are needed to deal with rising call volumes, rising crime rates, staffing issues caused by COVID-19 and the local police.

“Unfortunately, current staffing levels do not allow MPs to spend time building relationships in communities across Garland County as MPs often go from call to call with little to no time. in between, ”Sheriff Mike McCormick said in a letter to the county. Justice Darryl Mahoney. “The GCSO Community Policing Project seeks to increase visibility in communities, reduce response times to calls for service, and implement community-based policing principles to gain community trust. “

Based on incident reports recorded in the ministry’s computer-assisted dispatch system, the 49,008 service calls last year exceeded the 2019 total by more than 15 percent. Compared to 2019, property crime increased 9.89% in 2020 and 10.48% in 2021. Violent crime increased 10.84% ​​in 2020 and 7.88% in 2021 compared to 2019. to pre-pandemic levels. Compared to 2019, reports of gun-related assaults increased by 80% and 30% in 2020 and 2021.

Seven assistants are assigned to each 12-hour patrol shift, but personnel limitations sometimes require five assistants to patrol the department’s 700-square-mile jurisdiction. McCormick said the pandemic had exacerbated the department’s staffing problems.

“Most of the Patrol Division has been exposed to COVID-19, and several MPs have been infected with COVID-19,” he said in the letter. “When an assistant has a confirmed case of COVID-19 and is unable to work, it creates difficulty not only for his shift, but for the entire Patrol Division. “

He said shorter response times are a public safety imperative, getting MPs on the scene sooner and fostering stronger relationships with the community.

“Often times, community members express feelings of mistrust and discontent because law enforcement is not visible in their neighborhoods or the county area,” he said. “It also creates a dangerous situation for MPs and community members when assistance is needed and the backup can be 30 to 80 miles away.”