Putting Public Safety First
BY LEGISLATOR TONEY L. EARL (D- Spring Valley)
Several months ago, the issue of security in county government buildings started to become a political football of sorts after County Executive Day repeatedly advocated the placement of armed guards at all county buildings.
It is critical that our county buildings are safe and secure for our employees and our residents, however, many concerns were raised about the new idea. After some discussions were held between the County Executive’s Office, the Legislature, and the Sheriff’s Dept., it seemed as if progress was being made to reach a sensible solution.
All of that was unfortunately erased when County Executive Ed Day issued a unilateral proposal that did not address key points raised during earlier discussions. Under his proposal, the existing security guards (eight full-time employees, three part-time, and roughly 37 relief employees who cover shifts when needed) would be transferred from the County’s General Services Department to the Sheriff’s Department.
The guards would be trained to use firearms, would be given firearms to protect the building, and metal detectors and wands would be installed at entrances to every building. Additionally, three more weapons-trained security officers would be hired. However, for all that, in the county executive’s own proposal, “No additional funding is required for the transfer of the security function and the establishment of three new positions.”
It is mind-boggling to consider that with the array of new expenses this proposal demands there would be no funding mechanism to meet those new demands. Not only that, the General Services Department has already been spending well over $150,000 a year more than was budgeted to perform the basic security functions until now.
Even worse, the county executive abolished the position of security operations coordinator, whose job it was to manage the 48 individuals who secure our county buildings. This has already resulted in several workplace violations. How can you talk tough about beefing up security when you’re getting rid of security positions and endangering existing security operations in the process?
At a meeting of the Legislature’s Special Committee on County Security on Tuesday night, I asked the county executive’s staff how this policy could be implemented with no new funds when at least an additional $400,000 would be required to pay for what the county executive wants. Their response was discouraging, and didn’t address all the new expenses that would be required.
The issue of security in our county is too serious to be trivialized. If we are going to strengthen security in our facilities, we need to provide the funding to do so. This isn’t a high-minded approach- it’s basic governance. Our residents deserve more than tough talk – the leaders of this county need to match that talk with real action.
Anything less is a disservice to our residents, our employees, and the men and women who work hard to keep us safe.