Public May Be Less Safe Under Proposed Budget Cuts

RENO, NV - Once again Washoe County is facing another round of budget cuts.

The Sheriff's office's share could be as much as $3.9 million and that could mean the loss of as many as 46 employees.

After six years of budget trimming and the loss of 106 employees, a sheriff's spokeswoman says the office has finally reached a tipping point and the result will be fewer officers on the street putting the public at further risk.

Years of cuts, Assistant Sheriff Lisa Haney says, have left them with no place to go. Many of them would have to come from a jail staff that's already fairly slim.

Before an inmate is admitted they have to be processed and the Sheriff's office is saying cutbacks in that staff that handles that process will at times leave officers waiting in line perhaps for hours to hand off those they've arrested.

While they're here, they won't be out on the streets patrolling and investigating. It's a problem that impacts more than the sheriff's department. The jail serves 37 different agencies, the Reno and Sparks Police Department.

There will be other less visible, but still troubling impacts.

Fewer deputies supervising inmates are likely to mean some units may be shut down, crowding the population of a thousand or more every day into smaller quarters. Cells built for 2 may have to hold 3, the third inmate sleeping on a plastic container on the floor. The result, says Haney, will likely be a more dangerous environment for inmates and staff.

"Fights are going to go up, assaults on staff are going to go up, suicide attempts and suicide successes are going to go up also," says Haney.

She's describing conditions that lead to more lawsuits and expensive settlements.

"We'll be writing...the county...which is the public's money more checks to inmates because of this."

The sheriff's office is painting a bleak picture, telling the public this round of cuts may be putting them at risk. Even suggesting residents should address any concerns to the county commission and there's little doubt that's the point.

"We can't cut anymore," says Haney. "We're at the tipping point that we talked about last year we were hitting. It's going to impact the public and we need them to know that it's going to. They''re going to be less safe.


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