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County law enforcement fund now in effect

County commissioners put the county law enforcement fund into effect in St. Francois County, but how much it will get used is entirely up to judicial discretion.

The state legislature passed a bill allowing the funds this year to help defray some of the costs of law enforcement.

Sheriff Dan Bullock said one of the biggest increasing costs they face is for medical care. He said some people have even committed crimes attempting to get medical care done.

“We don’t do any treatment that is not medically necessary,” Bullock said. “If it is elective, or is not immediately life-threatening, we don’t do it.”

Bullock said they will seek reimbursement from the inmate for medical care, but many are indigent, and cannot pay the costs.

It is that fact which makes Judge Kenneth Pratte believe the funds, while well-intentioned and seemingly a good idea, will not be as practical as some might hope.

“You can’t get blood out of a turnip,” Pratte said.

He explained that a defendant already has a good many costs assessed to him. A defendant is generally expected to pay court costs, and has a lien placed on them for the public defender’s services. They are also generally expected to pay some sort of restitution to the victim as a condition of probation.

Judges could assess up to an additional $300 for the law enforcement fund as part of their probation, but it is entirely up to judicial discretion.

“I feel good about it if we can manage to get our victims restitution,” Pratte said. “I’m not sure how much more you can get.”

Pratte said it would take some consideration before he would know for certain how and when he will use the new law enforcement fund. “It sounds like a really good idea, it’s well-intentioned,” Pratte said.

Judge Tom Ray said he was glad the fund was available and that he would use it “in appropriate cases as one of the tools of sentencing.”

Ray indicated cases where a lot of law enforcement work was required might be appropriate, but stressed it would be decided on a case by case basis. “I think it allows the user of the law enforcement system to help pay for it.”

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