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In a recent letter to the editor, Rickey Tumlin was critical of the Hall County Sheriff's Office citing issues involving pay and vehicle use. Mr. Tumlin's criticism was directed at the fact that vehicles are allowed to idle while officers direct traffic.
As a former deputy sheriff himself, Mr. Tumlin knows that directing traffic can be one of the most hazardous activities an officer can perform, with many officers injured or killed annually. The blue lights are necessary not only to keep the officers safe but to serve as an attention getter and warning for approaching traffic to also keep motorist safe. Mr. Tumlin also knows that the emergency lights installed on emergency vehicles, create a tremendous drain on the vehicles electrical system and if used must be used with the vehicle running or idling.
What Mr. Tumlin didn't know is that when those vehicles are used to direct traffic at a church, business or other location, the entity hiring those officers (off-duty) not only pays the officers but also pays a flat fee along with an hourly rate (paid directly back to the county) to cover the cost of the use of the vehicle. The vehicle fuel surcharge covers vehicle usage for the off-duty jobs.
It's also important to understand that while the officers are working extra duty jobs, they are required and often do respond to everything from stranded motorist to emergency calls, saving the county money and providing much needed added coverage and visibility in and around the county.
As for the second issue involving 12-hour shifts and pay, it was implied that the shift was implemented back in the 80s as a way to provide automatic overtime and thus a "back door" raise for the officers. Large numbers of departments all around the country and many locally went to the 12-hour shifts at that time, not as a way to get a "back door" raise, but to comply with federal law.
The federal courts had recently handed down a decision now simply known as the "Garcia decision" which dealt with issues that included comp time verses overtime and how it could be applied. The 12-hour shifts were put into place to better comply with that federal law. As for built in overtime, unlike many jobs, in law enforcement you must provide continuous coverage with no down time for shift change and you must also have time before the beginning of each shift to address issues, pass on critical and current information and make shift assignments, the federal courts have ruled that when attendance is mandated, you must pay the officers for their time.
The department's leadership is always looking for ways to save money and cut cost while at the same time meeting a growing demand for our services always with a commitment to serving this county and we welcome any questions or concerns. As financial director, I can attest to the measures that are taken to indeed be good stewards of the funds entrusted to this department.
The men and women of this department are a dedicated group of hard-working public servants and I wish they were in a situation where they didn't have to work extra jobs, but they do. Many agencies around us pay their officers more and ask less from them. I close simply by saying how proud I am of each and every person here and what a joy it is to serve this community and department.
financial director, Hall County Sheriff's Office, Gainesville
Sheriff sheds light on deputies' actions
I've been educated.
In response to my letter Wednesday, I received a phone call from Sheriff Steve Cronic. He educated me to the fact that the private businesses and churches that are receiving the services of our deputies are paying the county for this service.
These private entities are paying an additional fee for the use of the patrol vehicle and these funds are being deposited into the county treasury. This illustrates an innovative way to bring income into the county coffers.
Concerning the personal use and abuse of county vehicles, he asks that anyone observing officers in civilian dress or otherwise that is abusing the use of a patrol vehicle to report this to him and disciplinary action will be taken.
I congratulate Sheriff Cronic for seeking innovative methods for finding new fiscal sources to offset the expense of operating his office. Maybe the other county offices can follow suit. I'm sure that it would result in lessening the tax burden.