Va. cops warn budget cuts will harm the public

News report: Police budget cuts and economic crisis increase crime, endanger officers

By Warren Fiske

RICHMOND, Va.— Sheriffs from across Virginia bemoaned proposed budget cuts to their offices Monday, saying public safety would be compromised.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has proposed $34.5 million in cuts to sheriffs’ offices as part of a comprehensive plan to balance a $2.9 billion state budget shortfall.

The reductions would force the layoff of 310 deputies across the state, Steve Draper, president of the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, said during a news conference.

Draper and other sheriffs said the layoffs would hamper their abilities to run safe jails and keep order in courthouses.

“Law enforcement is a core service that cannot be compromised regardless of the financial times,” said Sheriff Charles Jett of Stafford County.

The sheriffs said the proposed cuts come at a time when their offices are overwhelmed in the poor economy with requests to help evict people who are delinquent in paying rents.

State Sen. Ken Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, said he hoped the cuts could be avoided. Stolle, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said he is looking to make savings by not incarcerating “certain” non-violent criminals. He suggested many could be confined at their homes with electronic monitoring devices.

“We have to consider whether we’re afraid of the individual or mad at the individual,” said Stolle, who attended the news conference. “If we’re afraid of the individuals, they need to be incarcerated. If we’re mad at the individuals, there’s various ways to punish them.”

Copyright 2009 Virginian-Pilot

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