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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Do LC Deputy Sheriffs Really Need Glocks?

Lehigh County Exec Don Cunningham "Safe Streets" community policing program provides $1 million in matching grant money, over three years, to fund a proactive approach to crime. Lehigh County taxpayers currently spend $1.1 million per week to prosecute and incarcerate criminals. If that cost can be reduced by funding a few cops on bicycles, it is money very well spent.

Amazingly, all five Republicans on Lehigh County's Board of Commissioners have said "No" to this idea, at least temporarily. All along, Commissioner Dean Browning has objected to the use of tax revenues to fund this program, but has identified other funding sources. Browning's objection appears to be reasonable and protects the county taxpayer.

But Commissioner Andy Roman, unlike Browning, thinks the county should limit its money to its own functions. In the first hearing on this matter, he publicly worried that deputies - armed with revolvers - were being outgunned by thugs. There are two flaws in Roman's thinking. First, he is only interested in spending money on programs that react to crime. Second, are revolvers inadequate?

At the second hearing, a number of deputies just coincidentally showed up to complain about being armed with revolvers. Obviously, Roman wanted these deputies to provide him with political cover for voting against something publicly endorsed by both the Republican DA and Lehigh County police chiefs. So two deputies got up and complained, alienating police officers and chiefs who had come for a community policing program. They claimed their radios are inferior and that equipping them with revolvers is just not enough. "It's dangerous. We don't just deal with inmates, we deal with the public, too."

These "law enforcement officers," if you want to call them that, don't really give a damn about community policing or their "brothers" on municipal police forces. They were there to get their boss, Sheriff Ronald Rossi. His philosophy of "doing more with less" really bothers deputies, who chafe at his tight budgets.

Irked by this insubordination, Rossi intends to place disciplinary letters in their file. And deputies have responded with character assassination at The Morning Call Reader Forum. What these deputies need to learn is that they are just deputies and their boss, the sheriff, prefers revolvers.

The question of revolver v. semi-automatic is very much up in the air. Revolvers fire more slowly but are more accurate. Since deputies are usually providing courtroom security, I can certainly understand the concern for accuracy. Thanks to semi-automatic weapons, three New York detectives were able to fire fifty rounds into a car driven by twenty-three year-old Sean Bell, who was innocent of any wrong-doing.

Can deputies even be considered cops? There are numerous decisions going both ways, and the extent of their authority is murky. Legislation has been proposed to make clear that deputies have the same clout as regular cops - HB 466 - but it has been languishing in the Judiciary Committee since February, 2007.

DA Jim Martin stated emphatically that deputies are not law enforcement officers at the second commissioners' meeting, but I know several Northampton County deputy sheriffs willing to debate that point - privately. Unlike their Lehigh County counterparts, they act professionally.

No wonder they're armed with semi-automatics.


A.J. Cordi said...

The New York incident is reason enough why "less is more." The ruling on that case was an outrage, too, but I won't get started on that.

More weapons is not the answer.

Anonymous said...

Instead of using verbiage of "cops", Deputy Sheriffs, by statute, are law enforcement officers. Also, by statute, Deputy Sheriffs are not police officers, except in second class counties.

But sticking to the topic at hand, they never should have aired dirty laundry in public.

Anonymous said...

when was the last time a LeCo deputy discharged a weapon in the line of duty?

Anonymous said...

"Revolvers fire more slowly but are more accurate" I wonder what facts can prove this statement to everyones satisfaction.

Anonymous said...

They don't need those guns and Cunningham has no business involving the County in programs that they should not be handling. If he has extra money to play with , then send it back to the taxpayers. Cops in streets is not the county's business. What's next?

Anonymous said...

I am a little angry and upset about all of this "not law enforcement stuff." However, I am extremely disappointed and discouraged. I am a Deputy Sheriff. Does anyone out there really know what we do? We do work in court, serve papers and deal with inmates on a daily basis. However, we also do many other things, some of us on a daily basis. I am very shocked at the public opinions regarding us "non law enforcement" Deputies. I would like to think us non law enforcement Deputies would be appreciated for getting the people, who are ruining our communities and jeopardizing the lives of our children, off the streets.
Do you know what it is like to put on a bullet proof vest everyday and hope the day goes well so you can go home to your children at night? Do you know what it is like to enter home, after home, after home looking for wanted people who have committed crimes? Never knowing who is hiding under a bed or behind a shower curtain. Entering homes filled with drug dealers and gang members knowing there are guns in the home ......somewhere. Do you have any idea what it is like dealing with the emotions that develop when you see neglected, abused children living in filthy, drug infested homes, being (so called) cared for by their strung out parents? Devastated because us non law enforcement Deputies just entered their home and are taking away their parents and placing them with complete strangers? The parents they love, not realizing they have no chance at a good life (so Far), because they don't know any other lifestyle? I am really puzzled and dissappointed with some of the public thinking. Isn't what we do a good thing? When we apprehend drug dealers, gang members, and killers (yes, us non law enforcement Deputies really do catch killers) we are doing something positive. Why are we not appreciated and thanked for putting our lives in danger ? It's upsetting, that what we do doesn't make people proud. It's really nice to hear a complete stranger say "thank you" for no particular reason. ( it actually does happen sometimes .) I will continue to do my job and do it well, regardless of the discouraging words spoken by the public. I know that I am out there doing good things for the communities. Tell the Lehigh Co. Deputy Sheriff that was shot to death serving SIMPLE civil papers that he was a non law enforcement officer." But, what do I know I am just a Deputy Sheriff.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Deputy Sheriff,

I see the deputies of NC on a daily basis. As far as I am concerned, they are the most professional department in the Lehigh Valley, with the right mix of young, old, women, men, black, Hispnaic and white. What impresses me most is the respect they show to the public. None of them needs a weapon bc they are all very well trained and most are at least 90 feet tall. But they do carry just in case. And I think they all are issued semi-automatics.

Like LC deputy sheriffs, NC deputies are concerned about their status as law enforcement officers. Like LC deputies, they are concerned about fair treatment from the top. But unlike LC deputies, you won't see them complain at a public meeting about the quality of their equipment. They will not discuss security issues like that publicly bc it lets the bad guys know their weaknesses.

Nobody questions the authority of a NC deputy sheriff. That department has worked for years to improve its professionalism, and ios working on certification right now. From what I saw at the last LC Comm'r meeting, LC deputies need to do some work on their professionlism. They earned no one's respect that night.

hayshaker said...

I don't know about you but if my ass was on the line and I had doubts about my weapon, I'd secure a suitable weapon using my own funds.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Hayshaker, I asgree. I may be mistaken, but believe LC deputies have that option.

Anonymous said...

They do not have that option, check into it. At one of the last meetings, the deputies asked the Sheriff since he didn't want to purchase new weapons for them because of it coming out of the budget, they asked if they could purchase their own weapons and he flat out said no. I agree that the deputies shouldn't have taken their plea to a public forum, but only if that was their first plea. I could be wrong with my time frame, but from what I understand they have been asking the Sheriff to supply them with better equipment and training all around, not just the weapons. Again, he flat out says no.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a gun owner and I don't work for the county, but anyone who stands in any way between me and those who would do me harm gets the best weapon my money can buy. They wear vests for a reason. There are really vicious bad guys out there with really powerful weapons. These men and women should be given every advantage we can reasonably provide them. And this is reasonable. The focus should be less on the inanimate object and more on the creatures who'd attempt to kill those good folks we've all hired to protect us and our judicial employees.

Carlos said...

Good Job! :)