Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

January 3, 2014

Sheriff: Salary levels critical problem

By Sheriff Elmer Tanner
Navarro County Sheriff

Corsicana — Dear Citizens,

On Jan. 1, 2014, I was proud and honored to celebrate serving the citizens of Navarro County as Sheriff for the first year.

We have faced many challenges together during this first year in office. I started with a slogan “Meeting your needs while exceeding your expectations” and I hope and believe that I have lived up to those words.

We have experienced many changes at the N.C.S.O., from policies and procedures, law and personnel changes to increased calls for services and numerous traumatic episodes of violence including homicidal violence.

We have developed strong working relationships with other agencies within our county and across the state to assist us with keeping our citizens and their property safe.

One example of calls for service is depicted by knowing that we answered 23,368 calls to 9-1-1 in 2013.     

We were all affected by the killings in Kaufman of the District Attorney, his wife and one of their prosecutors.

Courthouse security was immediately thrust into the forefront and immediate action became necessary. In Texas the security of the courthouse is the responsibility of the Sheriff at the will of the commissioners court.

We have taken action to improve security but more changes are needed and must be addressed.

We were all shocked and saddened by the tragedy in West, and how it affected our own community with the loss of one of our own dedicated volunteer firefighter.

We lost many of our friends and neighbors during 2013, but I want to mention the late James Sykes for his friendship and dedication to this community.

We were fortunate to be approved to utilize the Texas Association of Counties driving simulator and the N.C.S.O. employees scored 99 percent on their driving evaluation.

We applied for and were awarded a Federal grant for the purchase of bullet-proof vests.

I was proud to represent the citizens of Navarro County as Sheriff in Austin along with 150 other Sheriffs during a visit to the 83rd Legislature.

We sold approximately $15,900 in scrap metal and pecans, approximately $14,000 in surplus items in 2013, and also returned $851,000 to the county’s general fund that was to be used to fund positions within the agency from last year’s budget. This does not include revenue from the sale of estray horses and cattle, civil process fees or citations.        

There were numerous other positive changes or situations that we saw during the year in review.

In line with my promise of always keeping the citizens informed I must report that we are facing a serious situation in reference to personnel. I sadly report that we lost 22 full-time and 5 reserve deputies in 2013. We have already received and accepted three resignation letters for January 2014. We will have approximately 15 positions available at that time.

I addressed this situation with examples during budget talks and the fact that we could not compete with agencies within our own jurisdiction at the current salary structure.    

We cannot compete for new employees or retain our current employees at our current salary rate.

We recently lost a Detective Sergeant in whom we had invested tens of thousands of dollars in training, and who had numerous years of experience to a local sister agency because of higher salary. Another example is a Patrol Deputy that we hired in May who had already been sent to S.W.A.T. school along with other training that resigned in December to go to a sister agency because of a higher salary. These agencies understand the value and how beneficial it is to hire a trained and experienced officer in contrast to hiring a recruit and paying for their training. I am not asking for this agency to be the highest paid agency in the region. I am simply asking to have a competitive salary base for the employees so I can fill the vacancies in this agency and better serve the citizens.  No war can ever be fought and won without trained and qualified soldiers.         

The hiring process requires psychological evaluation, polygraph examination, physical and drug screening after passing the interview process. These services all cost taxpayers money. We are getting approximately one of every four candidates through the hiring process. The state mandated education is next at taxpayers’ expense along with uniforms and other incidentals. Jail staffing is mandated by the State of Texas and must be met or the jail can be closed. Overtime is necessary and often mandatory because of staffing shortages. Staffing shortages are also felt in the number of officers patrolling your community to catch burglars, serve warrants and take DWI drivers and drugs off our streets.   

We cannot call a temporary service to fill open positions in the Sheriff’s Office.

When a new deputy is hired they must go through field training which sometimes lasts up to 16 weeks. This places two deputies together in the same vehicle with only half the coverage.

We must get our priorities straight. We cannot continue to lose our trained and experienced officers to other agencies solely because of salaries.

I assure you that I remain dedicated to serving the citizens of our community and that your safety and security is my priority, as it has always been. I want to thank the dedicated men and women of the N.C.S.O. and our citizens for partnering together to keep our community safe.

I look forward to the honor of serving you in 2014.    

"History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats." B.C. Forbes

As always, God Bless and be safe.

Sheriff Elmer Tanner