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St. Clair County Sheriff's Department
Sunday December 19th, 2010 :: 10:19 a.m. CST


Mearl Justus: Deputy layoffs will make things tough BY MEARL JUSTUS

Mearl Justus: Deputy layoffs will make things tough

Public safety and the safety of our patrol deputies is our top priority. I want to address the effect to the public and deputies' safety as a result of the layoff notices of up to 13 patrol deputies. This has come about because two entities, St. Clair County administration and the Federation of Police representing correctional officers and patrol deputies, could not come to an agreement.

These 13 layoffs will significantly change the way we provide services. I want to stress safety of the public and the patrol deputies will be, and always is, our main concern, and we will be forced to eliminate other things that do not fall into that category. Out of the remaining 33 deputies, only 26 patrol the streets and investigate crimes for 700 square miles and 54,000 residents. Seven are assigned to the Metro patrol and are fully paid for by Metro. As a result, we must do the following:

* We will not be able to respond to property crimes anymore. This includes alarms. The past 11 years of calls for service show how almost every year the numbers have stayed consistent. We will only have enough patrol deputies on the street to be able to respond to calls that are in progress. Property crime victims will download reports and mail them to us.

* Eliminating our DARE/ community officer. DARE has been controversial as to whether it is actually effective, but our DARE officer has always done much more. This officer is a liaison and a school resource officer and assists with active shooter preparation. A large amount of his time is also spent organizing all of the Neighborhood Watch groups in the unincorporated areas. We will no longer have the personnel to manage this.

*Shutting down the St. Clair County Drug Tactical Unit. This unit has been one of the most successful units in Southern Illinois over the past 20 years. We will no longer have a unit to provide proactive drug investigations. It has been statistically shown that major violent crimes are committed by people who have used illegal narcotics at the time of the offense. This has been the only unit in St. Clair County that has directly dealt with the dealers on the streets and in your neighborhoods. The other state and federal drug units deal more with the higher-level sellers.

*We will no longer be able to assist other departments and communities that call us for help and resources. We will no longer be able to pick up warrant arrests at each of the departments.

We have always been there for the residents when they needed us, and we will still be there. It will just be in a significantly reduced manner. The best we can figure, we will have three to four patrol deputies a shift for the entire county, especially when you consider vacations, sick days and court time.

Supervisors have always answered calls because of our staffing, but will now be doing more call answering than supervising. We have always had slimmed down management numbers, especially looking at other departments.

One serious traffic crash or one domestic violence call might tie up every deputy for hours.

I understand every citizen is going through hard times now. This is especially tough around the holidays and knowing that at least three of the young super- cops of the future who are being laid off have wives who are pregnant.

We will continue to be there to support public safety as best we can. Let's all hope for the safety of citizens and the deputies.

Mearl Justus is sheriff of St. Clair County.

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St. Clair County Sheriff's Department
700 N 5th St
Belleville, IL 62220

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Sgt. John Fulton

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