Department running on “bare minimum”, Sheriff says

Sheriff Bill Risen is running on the bare minimum in funding, he says, and is worried that it may not be enough.

Speaking to the Board of Supervisors on Monday morning, Risen said that his department has handled 1,295 calls in the last 30 days with minimal staff, including:

  • vehicle collision investigations
  • medical calls
  • disturbance calls
  • assistance calls
  • assaults
  • thefts
  • alarms
  • animal calls
  • deceased persons
  • threats
  • drugs
  • domestic violence
  • burglaries
  • criminal damage
  • warrants
  • shots fired
  • missing persons
  • juvenile problems
  • overdoses
  • trespassing
  • suicide
  • stabbing
  • child abuse
  • sex cases
  • rape

He told the Board about a couple of cases in particular, including a rape case which required the attention of the only deputies on duty and left nobody on patrol in the whole County while deputies assisted the victim and investigated.

“Captain Bagby put on his uniform, got in his unit and came down to Parker and patrolled while everybody was tied up,” Risen told the Board. “Captain Bagby does not get overtime.”

He told the story of a recent vehicle collision on Salome Road, in which a 3 year old child was ejected from the vehicle, propelled “through a Palo Verde tree” leaving part of the scalp behind in the tree and the child’s skull visible, and was reached by Sheriff’s deputies who administered first aid with officers from DPS.

“The 3 year old was taken to hospital and will survive,” Risen said, “only due to the actions of the officers who responded. My question is, if those officers hadn’t responded, what would we have had?”

Risen also mentioned 30 pounds of methamphetamine recently confiscated, and asked how many lives would have changed if the drug had made it to the streets of Quartzsite, Wenden, Salome and Parker.

“We are running at bare minimum,” Risen told the Board. “To those of you who work for the County you know how hard it is to call and get us to assist, because we just don’t have the units available. We’re coming up on holiday weekends. We have Memorial Day coming up.”

According to a recent press release, the Sheriff’s Department will be partnering up with Parker Police, Quartzsite Police and CRIT Police as recipients of an Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety grant for Memorial Day weekend, allowing the local agencies to put more officers on DUI patrols that weekend.

“The goal of this enforcement detail will be to deter impaired drivers,” according to a statement. “Nearly one third of fatal crashes in the United States was related to impaired driving. […] Our departments, along with the assistance of Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, know these statistics are a chilling reminder that we need to not only enforce DUI laws, but to also educate drivers about the dangers and effects of impaired driving and prevent an impaired individual from getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.”

The grant funds officer overtime pay. But Risen said it couldn’t be done without deputies on the payroll in the first place, saying he has been losing people from his department in response to La Paz County’s financial situation.

“Think about it,” he said, before leaving the podium to sit down.

La Paz County Sheriff’s Department covers around 4500 square miles including a lengthy stretch of Interstate 10 and is based in Parker, AZ.

Supervisors DL Wilson and Duce Minor have said that the budget cuts at the County are a painful but necessary part of bringing a widely-acknowledge financial crisis under control. Employees have been laid off, department budgets have been slashed and new rules have been enacted in order to curb spending.

Among the Board actions on Monday was a tentative approval of a new food contract at the La Paz County Jail, which would hand off control of the jail’s commercial kitchen to an outside contractor, potentially saving the County around $150,000 per year. This also reduces liability, according to Commander Suffle.


  1. Aaron Bond

    Soooo….maybe the elected officials should take a pay cut….do an auction and sell some county vehicles, auction off some unused equipment. Make the inmates do community service. Plenty of potholes to fix in La Paz county. Plenty of trash to pick up. Plenty of offroad trails could use raking.

  2. Corey Lynn Nash

    Agree, sell off what is not in use, and have them take a huge pay cut. Let them live off the wages everyone else gets. When they earn money for the County, they earn their wages.. the way I’ve been seeing it, they get paid to do a piss poor job..

  3. Debbie Hale

    Interesting that the BOS leaves the county wide open for liability suits by allowing the one department that provides safety for its citizens to become understaffed. Yet did I not see in the BOS agenda for today a motion to approved overtime funding to the Public Works Department for “monsoon storm call outs”? Don’t know if it was approved or not but seriously….they can approve for one department and yet tell the ones who y’all dial 911 for to deal with the new budget restraints. God forbid one day they call for a cop to come to their aid and due to ‘budget cuts’ that call doesn’t get ‘prioritized ‘ and they have to wait. Use some common sense BOS, jeez!

  4. And who’s going to watch the inmates that are raking trails, picking up trash ect? What part of bare minimum Are you people not getting? Sure sell off the vehicles not in use that makes no sense at all if the ones in use break down. Yes, I do agree elected officials should take a pay cut and maybe see what it’s like living paycheck to paycheck

  5. Amanda Romero

    Elected officials should all take paycuts, especially any who are receiving income from other sources. Absolutely abhorrent that our police department is so underfunded. I guarantee that the county will be hit with a lawsuit sooner or later due to these cuts.

  6. Plus Aggravated DUI’s , Agency Assists, Disabled Vehicles.
    Warrant Arrests . Business checks, Community checks. The
    List is endless!

  7. Where did the S.O. get the fuel for the joy ride in the helicopter over the river last week?

  8. Joe the plumber

    What about all the worthless attorneys and huge judicial salaries for underqualified judicial administrators..

  9. Jimmy John- I believe that was a mandatory maintenance flight by the pilot.

  10. Wally Saunders

    Never a shortage on holiday weekend

  11. Hazard County?

    You don’t think there is liability if public works does not respond and clear roads or close them due to flooding? No liability for legal malpractice? All the deputies will quit when payroll is not made as they will not work for free. These are lousy times, but the Sheriff’s Department is only one of many that need to function for there to be a county. Rural communities have longer response times. You want quick response time, live in a large city. There are many changes that have not yet been implemented hopefully, otherwise these lost jobs and reduced services will all be for nothing. Bleeding has to stop for the healing to start.

  12. 1 Sheriff, 1 captain, 4 Lieutenants, 4 Sergents, 2 Detectives, total 12 supervisors for 15 patrol deputies. All of whom drive their county vehicles to and from work everyday. Some of them live in Lake Havasu City, 80 mile round trip. Not quite “as lean as possible”

  13. Michelle L Dahinden

    Vote out elected officials and vote in someone who will be better suited to get County back on track.

  14. To Michelle L Dahinden: The some of the officials who got the county into this mess were voted out and this is the what the new administration has to do to get the ship righted. Yes more fat can be trimmed, but it has to start somewhere. instead of complaining about the county’s financial woe’s, start a fund raiser to help them out. Not what can the county do for me, what can I do for the county. Positive attitudes people.

  15. Elected officials should all take paycuts NOW!

  16. Well said daddy duck. The sheriff just don’t get it! The county is broke! Cut what has to be cut don’t treat us like we are ignorant it has always taken an hour for response to district three. Overtime for public works I believe gets paid by FEMA for flood call outs and I notice none of our roadways are being repaired at all, where are the HURF funds going? Arizona ARS-6533 specifically states HURF funds in counties are solely for use on highway and street purposes not law enforcement

  17. It would be nice if the elected officials could take paycuts if they were able. Most elected officials have a lot of responsibility and do a lot of work. They still have bills to pay and huge houses to build.

    BUT…it’s the jail and the elected officials who won’t cut in their departments. If we can’t make payroll those are the ones to blame. They will also be to blame for the employees who choose to cut bait and get other employment.

    This hiring freeze is a joke too. I have seen flyers for the jail, assessors and now probation.

  18. Bob,

    I think that the county “borrowed” those funds and can’t pay them back anytime soon. So we get roadways that eventually will not be able to be fixed and we’ll be back to graded dirt roads.

    Tom in Public Works said that they do need to be done but there is no money for it. So the HURF funds are gone and they were not spent on our road work.

  19. To clarify Tom did not say anything about the HURF funds just that some repairs were not an option right now.

  20. Thanks Bea for the info, and it really seems like the jail is a major drain on the county funds ( the report I read on parkerlive said four million over budget) that needs to be fixed !! Our elected officials that are in charge of the money need to stop that EXTREMELY over budget drain! Very horrible job at supervising to say the least

  21. Hey guys- Just a quick clarification to give the other side of that argument. The Sheriff’s Department would tell you that jails cost money to run, no doubt, and that the County has to run it, but that the $4m deficit came out of funds that the jail had raised in previous years. So, basically, they’d say the County should budget enough money for the jail to run. At a recent meeting the BOS gave the green light for a ground-up financial plan for the jail, so we’ll see what happens. Thanks.

  22. Thank you for the clarification John. It still seems to me that there is I right way to run things and going that far beyond what was budgeted is wrong. There really should have been someone looking at fixing the problem with that before the first million dollars over budget.

  23. Joe the plumber

    The chief p.o. makes nearly 100k. The board only recently approved this while more dedicated employees lose their jobs. Are u kidding. And they get to hire more..If there ain’t no deputies and prosecutors and defenders, then you don’t need a p.o. suck it up and do your work. The blame for the county crises is on the shoulders of those on the kings thrown the past 20 years. The Drummer.

  24. Sheriff, If I am not mistaken there have been no sworn positions taken from you. From the start of La Paz county there has been one deputy assigned to each area. What has changed that you don’t now have the sworn staff to patrol? And if I may with all due repect to my native friends, it seems to me you have too many chiefs and not enough indians working the road.

    I don’t see why a Lt. cant suit up and I would certainly expect every sgt. you have to be taking calls.

    I would like to see three helicopters available to fly 24 hour shifts. Except that is not feasable in the current financial situation.. My suggestion, take every dime you are giving to your one helicopter and spread it out to the patrol staff for
    safety and other neded equiptment.

    I am troubled by the comments of the Sheriff using hyper and emotional language describing rapes, injured children, etc. This kind of talk is used by law enforcement types to place fear on the community and pressure supervisors for more funding. Its an old technique.

    What is Risen facing that the previous sheriffs over the last 30 somes years have not faced given no sworn staff has been cut?

  25. I love how people comment on what they have no idea about mainly the sheriffs department, for one the helicopters were not purchased but were obtained from Maricopa County and its budget to operate and maintain comes from covered grant money….. also when it comes to the pilot the county did not pay for him to obtain his pilots license thats a nice savings of at least 100k for just the pilots license…. deputies having been leaving for other employment and there open positions are not being filled the jail for example is also losing certified officers and those positions are not being filled it is by far cheaper to hire an officer, than to face a lawsuit when an officer gets injured due to lack of staffing….. the jail was this county’s cash cow for years and now its not generating the income it once did its now and issue i never once remember anyone in this county praising the sheriffs office for the work that was completed in order to obtain these funds it was just a grab bag of money covering everything else that was coming up short in the county, how many years has the sheriffs departments officers been given comp time in lieu of paid overtime work working additional shifts, appearing in court,covering shift when detention officers or deputies have a personal emergency or need time off….. yes i agree things have to be done to contain the bleeding from this county but you cannot justify not filling close to 10 positions when they were budgeted…. where did those funds go….. and also can anyone explain why two well paid individuals who work patrol to the tune of 150k a year not including benefits or retirement are still getting paid out of the jail budget…….. and another thing how does an administrative assistant need and assistant……. just my two cents have a great night and just know that no matter what the Deputy’s and Detention Officers do everything they can to keep our community safe no matter the risk but they also have the right to go home to there family’s at there end of there shift just like anybody else and to make choices that puts them at risk and the community at risk just opens the door to the county facing another lawsuit they will not win……..

  26. Inside Man, Please share with us the name of the grant that the Sheriff is using to fund the helicopter?

  27. Arizona 1122 program, DLA 1033 program, R.I.C.O, Stone Garden, Arizona Search and Rescue, free hangar space From Colorado River Indian Tribes as well as funds when helicopter is used within the exterior boundaries of the CRIT Reservation at least when Chief Ponce was Still there that may have changed at this point

  28. Everyone keeps saying “elected officials need to take pay cuts” BUT, many tried, in order to save the RIFs and were told they couldn’t. Also, many of the elected officials have nothing to do with what caused this, and/or they weren’t even in office at that time.

    Sheriff, with all due respect, no one is telling you to RIF officers. They gave you a dollar amount to reduce every month, just like every other elected official. Some have bitten the bullet and done it, even though it created chaos and forced them to look at things with a new perspective and point of view. But they did it, because one way or another, it will get done. Cut out administrative positions. Cut out other positions that aren’t officers. It is absolutely a terrible thing to have to do, but it has to get done.

    No one doubts that police officers and other first responders have an important, serious job to do. The community at large will be behind you; however, when all you do at each board meeting is stand up and perpetuate fear-mongering, it doesn’t do anyone any good. You fought the cuts, we applaud you, we get it. But it has to be done, so be a team player and do it. Don’t create resentment by digging in your heels, when others have made the sacrifice, even though they disliked it just as much as you do.

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