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State withholds $500 from local training fund

The annual check from the Missouri Department of Public Safety to the St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department for training was $500 short this year because the state claims the local agency did not provide crime statistics as required by law. Sheriff Dan Bullock said this is not right and he is upset.

The Sheriff’s Department was one of 16 law enforcement agencies across the state penalized $500, according to the Missouri Police Officer Standards and Training program, a section of the Department of Public Safety. The agencies did not provide crime and racial profiling statistics as required by law is the reason given for the penalties.

They are claiming St. Francois County did not provide statistics for the Uniform Crime Report, Bullock said, but he said that is not true. He said the department provided the figures but just not in the format that the Department of Public Safety wants them.

“We print the statistics out from our computer and send it to them,” Bullock said. “All of the numbers are there, just not on the forms they want us to use.”

The sheriff said the state wants the departments to spend the time processing the numbers into the format it wants rather than using its own people to do that work.

Bullock said this is another example of the state laying down requirements for the local governments and not providing the money to pay for the extra work it entails.

“To be honest,” the sheriff said, “we are probably better off with the $500 penalty. If we had to hire someone to do all of the reports they want done, it would probably cost us a lot more than $500.”

The sheriff said the Uniform Crime Report is just one example of the problem. Another is the racial profiling reports that are required by the state. To start with, they wanted a form filled out on every traffic stop made by an officer. Starting this year, according to Bullock, they now want an additional form filled out on every person an officer stops, whether it is for traffic or not.

“The state would be perfectly satisfied if our officers sat at a desk throughout their shift filling out paperwork,” Bullock said. “They don’t care if we ever have anybody out on the streets doing the job they are supposed to be doing.”

Bullock indicated his department has officers spending much of their time in the office dealing with statistical data and filling out reports when they could be better serving the public on the road. The state keeps coming up with more requirements but does not provide the money to cover the cost of them.

“They are going to find out one of these days the state doesn’t run the counties,” Bullock said.

Making the entire situation even more ironic, Bullock said, is the fact the state’s approach to the reports is making the resulting statistics inaccurate. He said he believes it has gotten to the point that many departments are just filling out forms with numbers that are not real in order to satisfy the requirements. The result is statistics that do not mean anything.

Another aspect that has Bullock and other sheriffs across the state upset is the fact that the money being withheld is not state money. He said the training fund from which the penalties are being deducted is from a fee collected in local courts and was intended for local use.

The county did receive a check last month from the Department of Public Safety for training. It totaled approximately $2,200. Bullock said it should have been for $2,700.

The Department of Public Safety indicated withholding training funding was the only tool lawmakers gave public safety officials to hold departments accountable for their Uniform Crime Reporting statistics and racial profiling logs.

“This is our way of trying to make sure law enforcement is being responsible and responsive to their communities,” state public safety director Charles R. Jackson told a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s not fair for them to receive equal funding if they are not supplying information about crimes they are investigating.”

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