BY TIFFANY MARTINEZ
GRADY COUNTY —
Finishing touches are being added to budgets across the board as the fiscal year is drawing to a close. Grady County Sheriff Jim Weir said his department is in desperate need of a 15 percent increase in funds to cover basic necessities for officers on a day-to-day basis.
“We’ve done what a lot of big city departments do and other departments — we’ve quarried the counties around us and asked what they’re starting their deputies out at and surprise, we are the lowest paying county of all the surrounding counties,” Weir said. “I realize some of them are the bigger counties like Cleveland County and Canadian county but even Garvin County starts their deputies off at more pay than we do.”
According to Weir, prior to losing one deputy to a county that pays more, he had 20 on staff.
“I couldn’t blame this deputy when he went to another county that was paying him more money,” Weir said. “But if we want to keep our good, quality people we need to be competitive.”
Weir will present his proposed budget to the Excise Board and the Grady County commissioners during the last week in June. He is not planning on asking for a salary increase that will top that of the surrounding counties, but wants decent pay for his officers that will fall somewhere in the middle.
“The majority of the county clerks even make more than our deputies,” Weir said, “and they should at least have parody with the clerks because these deputies are out there risking their lives in the cold of the winter or the heat of the summer.”
Vehicle replacement, hiring funds and Special Response Team equipment for the department are other incentives outlined in the new budget.
“A lot of our operating budget is currently going to keeping this old fleet of cars going,” Weir said. “We’re still paying on four of the cars.”
Over 70 percent of the department’s vehicles have over 100,000 miles on them. While the public may also drive cars that also have this amount of miles of them, Weir said, they are not covering the county on a daily basis. Driving a reliable vehicle is not only a matter of safety for the officer, but for the public as well.
“These deputy drive at high speeds if they go on a chase or if they receive a call where someone’s life is in danger,” Weir said. “These cars that they’re using need to be more than reliable, they need to be safe — the tires, the lights, the brakes — everything has to be optimum. Once you get over 100,000 miles with a car, you have a lot more breakdowns and a lot more repairs needed.”
Grady County Sheriff’s Public Relations Officer Lisa Hatchett attests to officers providing maintenance to department vehicles off of the clock and out of their own pockets. The current plan to remedy the vehicle situation lies within the proposed budget.
“I’m going to ask for the money to buy four new vehicles,” Weir said. “There’s a company that’s willing to sell us the polie package, where all we have to do is put the radio in the car and it’s ready to go. Then maybe the next year we can get two more and the year after that we can get two more, so over the next four years we would have eight brand new cars.”
Hatchett said the Grady County Sheriff Department is not solely counting on a budget increase to better their affairs, however.
“We are really trying to work on our K-9 program right now too,” Hatchett said. “Our K-9 is used for so many different things—drug searches, picking up scents for amber alerts, even search and rescue.”
The one and only Grady County K-9 was recently used at Plaza Towers Elementary school in the pursuit of missing children.
According to Hatchett, the department is raising money to attain three more K-9’s through private donations and fundraising.
“We have a vision to build a real professional department, we just need the funds to do so,” Weir said.