As Mohave County supervisors gathered on Friday to discuss next fiscal year’s budget, Sheriff Doug Schuster presented the governing board with a plan to enhance county law enforcement over the next decade. But change isn’t going to be easy, or cheap.

Schuster is calling for about 45 new deputy positions, with higher pay, by 2028 – six of which would be added within the next fiscal year. Schuster is also requesting from the county additional vehicles for the sheriff’s office, including new boats to replace the department’s 35-year-old fleet of watercraft. To do this, he’s going to need an estimated budget increase of 3.5 percent each year for the next 10 years.

According to Schuster, his department has long lagged behind national standards for law enforcement. Mohave County Sheriff Doug Schuster on Friday unveiled a plan to improve his department’s law enforcement operations over the next 10 years. But to do that, he says he’s going to need a bigger budget, starting with a $1.5 million budget increase during this fiscal year, and gradually raising by an average of $937,000 per year over the next decade.

Mohave County is home to about 200,000 residents, and is geographically the fifth largest in the country. It encompasses more land-area than the states of Delaware and New Jersey combined, and according to Schuster, the Mohave County Sheriff’s office employs only 83 deputies to patrol it. Based on Mohave County’s population and national standards, Schuster reported Friday, the county should be employing a minimum of 188 deputies.

Schuster’s plan noted that Mohave is a rural county with limited resources, and not all of his goals could be achieved over the next decade. But his plan proposed on Friday a systemic approach to improve the department’s manpower and deputy salaries.

According to Schuster, Mohave County Sheriff’s deputies receive the lowest starting salaries of any law enforcement agency, countywide. New deputies earn as much as 16 percent less than officers at other local law enforcement agencies, Schuster said, and qualified deputies have been difficult for the department to retain.

The sheriff’s office maintains modern equipment, although Schuster’s proposal expressed concern that the county’s fleet of law enforcement watercraft would eventually need to be replaced. The fleet was purchased through the State Lake Improvement Fund in 1984, which was earmarked as a competitive grant opportunity for ongoing equipment purchases. That funding was swept by the Arizona legislature in 2010, according to Schuster, and the county’s fleet will soon reach the end of its life expectancy as a result. Repair costs for the department’s fleet have increased dramatically, Schuster said, and replacing the department’s fleet will become necessary over the next decade.

The county’s existing radio system is also outdated, according to Schuster. Consisting of a VHF system operating in the two-meter range, the county’s network could be susceptible to catastrophic failure, resulting in months of down time that could present serious public safety and officer safety issues. Schuster is requesting that the county adopt a digital radio system that meets modern Arizona law enforcement standards.

Schuster is also calling for a new sheriff’s substation to replace outdated facilities in Mohave Valley and Lake Havasu City. Earlier this year, Mohave County supervisors explored the proposed new sheriff’s substation, which would have been located at the Franconia traffic interchange on Interstate 40. The construction of that substation, however, would have required a unanimous vote among supervisors to continue a quarter-cent sales tax that was scheduled to expire in November. No action was taken by the Board of Supervisors at that time.

A sheriff’s substation in Beaver Dam, located in Northern Mohave County, is also past-due for replacement, Schuster said. Consisting of a double-wide mobile home that was adapted for law enforcement use, the facility was originally intended to be a temporary building, to eventually be replaced by a permanent substation. It was a plan that never came to fruition, Schuster said. Elsewhere in the county, there are populated areas that have no substations at all, which Schuster says caused prolonged response times.

“This strategic plan outlines a 10-year level of necessary growth within our agency,” Schuster wrote in his proposal. “It is my desire to provide top notch law enforcement and public safety services to our citizens. Law enforcement services are a top priority in Mohave County. It is past time we address these needs in a proactive and forward-thinking manner.”

According to Schuster’s proposal, the sheriff’s office will pursue every available option for outside funding to reduce its reliance on the county’s general fund. The Sheriff’s Office is engaged in 12 ongoing competitive grants that have historically generated as much as $1 million per year for the department’s operations.

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(4) comments

only in havasu

I support the Sheriffs requests. For way too long, public safety has been pushed back, and made to ‘’deal with it.’’ There’s only so long before the last string snaps. It’s becoming harder and harder for agencies all over the nation to recruit and attract decent candidates. Add in how much disrespect and oversight is placed on organizations, it’s making putting your life on the line every day not so appealing. New generations are reaching the ages of eligibility to become officers, and they’re looking for video games and technology. If you’re agency doesn’t have competitive benefits, compensation, good equipment, high morale, etc;- the top candidates will go someplace else. It’s very expensive to train and certify a new peace officer, and it takes a long time before they can start out patrolling alone. Hire a new deputy today. It’s well over a year, (if everything goes smoothly) before they’re contributing to the organization in a meaningful way. If you work hard to train them, and just as they’re developing into a decent cop,- they quit because the agency down the road will pay them $8 or $10 more per hour, - it’s all been a waste.

This is really true for all the agencies throughout Mohave County. In 2006, many agencies suffered massive cut backs, and personnel were given reductions in pay. Many agencies are loosing officers to California agencies who pay 30% more right off the bat. They still live here, but go work in needles or elsewhere making substantially more, with unbelievable benefits, and retirement packages.

Rule of thumb. Pay now or pay later- but eventually,- you will pay!

tomgarven

Well I really don't know if this is a good plan or if it is deficient in some way but there are a few things I would consider.

1. The number of officers seems reasonable. However, some large percentage of those officers should be devoted to drug interdiction services which is becoming a major problem for Mohave County.

2. I would consider any population center in the county with greater than about 7,000-10,000 residents a prime target for at least a two or three person sheriff's office. The office can be prefab or stick built with only a minimum security jail/holding cell. The cost should be shared with the community. When available, the vehicle[s] used for the local law enforcement portion of the deputies work should be Electric Vehicles [EV, see note below]. Pursuit vehicles and those used for the transport of prisoners should be as economical as possible but still capable of reasonable pursuit speeds. Besides it is impossible to outrun a radio signal.

3. I would leave the lake duties to other agencies like the US Coast Guard and other local law enforcement agencies. There have been times on the lake that at least 3 different enforcement agencies get involved which can be a huge waste of resources. The only exception would be if the sheriffs office was the only alternative.

EV NOTE: While an EV Suburban, Tahoe or other vehicle suitable for sheriff officer use is not yet available, they will be in about 3-5 years. Once they become available significant savings in local calls could be achieved. Most EV will have a range of about 200-250 miles before requiring a recharge. Most EV vehicles achieve about 100 mpg equivalent with significantly less maintenance required.

only in havasu

Some good info, however, allow me to clarify on some issues you’ve mentioned. A law-enforcement agencies ‘’jurisdiction’’ is geographic and not debatable. Lake Havasu Police, (the name is suggestive of the entire Lake,) however, the City is only funded and has responsibilities for policing the channel. That’s it. The lake is split by two giant halves. One side California, this side Arizona. The Arizona side is the responsibility of the Mohave County Sheriff. They also patrol other waterways off of the Colorado River. The federal agencies have a role, but it does not include many of the daily responsibilities of the Sheriff. Agencies will help each other out as needed, but make no mistake, - every agency is spread thin. They will not assume ‘ take over, or handle the crimes and calls for service in another jurisdiction for a number of reasons. With respect to electric vehicles for rural law-enforcement use, as of now; there have not been sufficient studies to justify their use. Deputies may respond to an emergency 30 or 40 + miles away and need to respond quickly utilizing a large amount of the charge. Once there, another call to the opposite end of the County could require another fast, and long response. The deputy could end up on the side of the road without charge, and if this happens even once, it could cost lives. EV’s in New-York City where each officer might patrol less than a square mile, - is appropriate.

tomgarven

Good information. Thank you for your comment.

As far as EV are concerned, maybe someday about 10-20 years from now charging systems will be embedded right into each stretch of most major roadways. Highways like Interstate 40 and certainly Hwy 95. Charging will be automatic and continuous as long as you drive on that type of road. Experimental systems are already in place and soon your EV range may be unlimited. I visualize EV being used by local officers with short trips around populated areas. It will be increasingly important to go EV since the operating and maintenance costs are so low.

Thank you again for the comment.

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