I said I'd try and rip away the curtain for citizens to understand what's really happening with their county government and tax dollars.
I recently proposed that the BOCC sign and distribute a letter to all cities within the County that simply requested cities seek private event holders to pay for security at their own events. The BOCC agreed, signed the letter and mailed it to the cities.
This is standard practice in other parts of the country, and I believe it should be here. I do not believe that county taxpayers should be paying for law enforcement to provide security at private events. Period.
Is Money Involved?
It's not uncommon for private event organizers to charge admission or raise money through sponsors or vendor booths. If that is the case, then security should be factored as an expense for holding the event.
If it looks like there are going to be a large number of people, or the event is going to attract unwanted attention from attendees outside the community (especially people who want to cause security problems), then I believe the private event organizer should allocate funds toward security and possibly be responsible for reimbursing the city/county for costs incurred with law enforcement protection. I don't believe YOU, the taxpayer, should have to pay for it.
Fortunately, not all event organizers shift security expenses onto taxpayers. The Ironman events and County Fair (for some concerts) are great examples of event holders who pay for security.
Additionally, the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee held their biggest Lincoln Dinner event ever. Unfortunately, it received information that there might be agitators from outside the area and so it paid $1,200 to the County for a Sheriff's Deputy to provide security.
I believe that is how it should be. But this is not the case for all private events and it's not just security that the County could be on the hook for paying. I can tell you that there are other unexpected expenses that may occur with private events that county citizens are not aware of.
Does the County and Our Sheriff Even Have the Resources?
The reality is that budgets are tight and our Sheriff's Office is stretched beyond thin. Recently, I read just how thin our Sheriff's Office really is. Below are the number of police officers per 1,000 residents in our larger cities:
Post Falls Police has 1.26 Officers per 1,000 city residents
Rathdrum Police has 1.58 Officer per 1,000 city residents
Coeur 'Alene Police has 1.74 Officers per 1,000 city residents.
Guess how many Deputies we have per 1,000 residents? A mere 0.56.
With over 1,300 square miles of County to patrol, how can anyone expect to get reasonable responsive law enforcement services if they ever need it, especially in outlying areas? What this means is that as a community, we need to decide if we want a reactive Sheriff's Office that responds to events after they happen. Or, do we want a proactive Sheriff's Office that can respond so quickly as to being able to stop the bad guy during the crime.
I'm currently working with elected officials and department heads to address this and other situations. You will see me talk a lot about cost shifting as your Commissioner. It's one of the areas that when properly addressed can really make a positive difference for every person in this County.
It also can help make better growth decisions for everyone.
Here's the letter. It's to the point and is meant to apply to all private events. All that we ask is our cities work as partners with the County in making sure costs are properly allocated to the appropriate party.