Funding for Body Cameras and Tasers on the Way after Arbitration Ruling
The El Paso County Sheriff endured a setback recently following an arbitration ruling. The goal of the Sheriff Richard Wiles was to save money by civilianizing certain positions and using that money to invest in body cameras and Tasers. He still plans to move forward with his plan to invest in those items, despite the ruling.
Wiles acknowledge he knew arbitration was pending and could affect his plans. He wanted to have a backup plan to cover years three, four, and five of the budget. Wiles stated that in light of the ruling, the department will need to eliminate a couple of supervisor positions that had been unfulfilled and not addressed by the recent ruling. That will allow the department to fund the remainder of the five year data storage contract that comes with the camera and Taser deal. Commissioners are questioning the new hiring Wiles claims he needs to do to account for more federal inmates at the jail.
El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar stated she supports body camera use, but wants the sheriff to stay in close communication with Chief Administrator Betsy Keller before new hiring decisions are made. Wiles argued the cost of housing inmates is offset by funding that comes with them, which is what created the dispute in the first place. The vote of the arbitration panel was three to two in favor of the funding change.
According to Wiles, you need to be cautious with budgeting and money. He stated he understood why there was hesitation to approve his budget, but stated that funding is there and he didn’t plan to return to ask for any more funds in the future. The sheriff’s election opponent, Tom Buchino, stated he agrees with the arbitrator’s ruling and refuses to “… put a price tag on public safety.”