Review finds more deputies needed for Park County

 

By Samantha Hill
Enterprise Staff Writer 

The Park County Sheriff’s Office needs more employees, including women, according to a recent study conducted by the Community Safety Institute, or CSI, a public safety consulting organization. 

Park County commissioners on Thursday are expected to review the study and consider placing a mill levy election on the ballot during the June 7 primary.

The costs to implement the plan’s recommendations weren’t immediately available.

The study found the department needs five more deputies and three more Park County Detention Center officers. Half of the new employees should be women, the study found.

Sheriff Scott Hamilton said the department hires based on an applicant’s qualifications, not their gender. Hamilton did say he recently hired a female deputy, who will begin working in February. 

CSI began conducting the Sheriff’s Office study after its approval by the Park County Commission in October. The cost of the study was $9,000. Hamilton requested the study because he believes the department doesn’t have enough deputies for the community. 

The study looked at call volumes, officer workload and surveys taken by the officers to look at some of the issues in the department. 

According to the study, 15 deputies work in Park County, which has a population of roughly 15,880 people. That translates to one deputy for every 1,058 people. By comparison, the Livingston Police Department serves about half the amount of people, but there are 14 officers serving on the city’s force. 

The study also states that deputies in the Sheriff’s Office cover an area of 2,802 square miles. Park County’s deputy-to-population ratio is roughly equal to other counties of similar populations. However, compared to other counties overall, the deputy-to-population ratio is inadequate. 

Calls have also increased 159.9 percent over the past six years. 

The study also stated that tourists visiting Park County and Yellowstone National Park played a role in evaluating the need for deputies. 

Other than looking at the calls and service area, the study found inefficiencies in how Park County deputies are scheduled to work.

“There are no assigned patrols or call-answering deputies on duty daily between 0500 hours and 0700 hours” —  5 to 7 a.m. — the study stated. 

The price tag for hiring another five officers would be about $317,000 in yearly salaries, not including training.

The Detention Center was also addressed in the study. The study found that center staff are providing medical treatments ranging from administering aspirin to injecting inmates with hypodermic syringes for intravenous medications, a practice the study found “disturbing” and possibly a liability.

“Ordinarily, nurses who customarily make these decisions and perform these services are required to attend a two to four year nursing school or university,” the study stated. 

The study recommends that qualified medical personnel administer medications to inmates. 

The Detention Center also has some scheduling conflicts, according tot he study. Between 2 and 6 a.m., the center schedules one employee, which the study calls a safety concern.

“The only viable solution to the issue of single staff working the cell block is for Park County to hire additional detention officers,” the study states.

Hiring another three Detention Center employees would cost about $159,405. 

An extensive set of other recommendations were made, including more training, more deputies to handle evidence or animal problems and more courtroom security.