Polk County's popular Sheriff Grady Judd plead his case for a $187 million budget, up some 9 percent from last year's, but only asked for 30 new positions, including only seven new deputies, four for patrol and three for school resource slots at new schools opening this coming school year.
The remaining posts, Judd explained were for jail personnel, including 12 new detention deputies and 11 detention support specialists. Judd hastily added however that he really needed 20 more deputies but held his request down to keep his budget manageable. He said he presently had 713 deputies, 365 detention deputies and 727 support staff, bringing the total department roster to 1,804 employees.
Judd also cited that his department had managed to keep Polk's crime rate at its lowest in decades and far below the state averages.
“From 1997 to 2020, the crime rate has decreased 81 percent,” he explained. “And, that is a 49-year low in this county. We are a safe county, one of the safest in the state.”
Judd said his budget reflects the needs for performing to the highest professional standards and answering an average of 893 calls each day.
“We save lives every single day,” he explained.
He added that a small investment of about $75,000 has given his deputies a head start when answering a call: “Live 911,” he said. “When a call comes in to 911, it is instantly connected to the deputy responding, so he or she knows what they are facing before they get there. It has helped us manage a situation easier because we are fully aware of the circumstances before we get to the scene.”
Judd also told commissioners he saved the county about $5 million a year by putting jail inmates to work.
“They do laundry, work in the kitchens, clean our cars and help keep the jail clean,” he said. “Some counties don't do that, but I believe it is not only a savings, but a help to some of the inmates.”
He said that some inmates could earn certificates of training they can use to get a job when they are released, cutting down on rearrests.
The sheriff also touted his civilian volunteers who also saved the county money. He said they provided more than 131,000 hours of labor donated to the county including chaplain services, seniors vs. crime, agency support volunteers, jail volunteers, to name a few. Had that labor been paid for, he added, it would have cost nearly $3.5 million.
Completing the new $10 million booking center and installing facilities for virtual court proceedings and attorney visits with inmates also added to savings in transportation costs, he added.
Judd further told commissioners that Polk County presently had more than 2,800 inmates in county jail facilities and having on-site virtual meetings or proceedings instituted as safety measures during the pandemic peaks, would probably remain as part of a new way to handle those and cut down on transportation costs and enhance safety by limiting the times and numbers of trips prisoners had to be transported.
“It has actually enhanced safety of the community and our staff,” he said.
The sheriff also said dealing with behavioral health matters were also of tantamount importance in the future.
“There has been an explosion of drug use sand mental health issues that winds up with people in jail,” he said. “We need to offer better and more services to these people when they are released so they don't come back,” he added.
Asked by Commissioner George Lindsey if he would need to add another pod to the county jail to handle the number of inmates, Judd explained that was not necessary “right now, but could be next year.”
Lindsey also asked Judd if he was going to start using body cameras on his patrol deputies, to which Judd said a resounding, “No.”
“If a deputy came to your door to tell you a loved one had been killed in a traffic crash, would you want that recorded? No, I don't think so. And, to me, it's a privacy issue, a basic right to privacy, especially on what could be the worst day of your life. I'm just not going to do that.”
Judd's budget will also be approved at the public hearings in September when the remainder of the county's budget is approved.