NEW PORT RICHEY — The sheriff is placing 30 additional deputies on patrol in Pasco County's roads and neighborhoods, but the boost comes at the expense of some specialty units.
The disbanded units include community policing deputies who serve as liaisons between the Sheriff's Office and neighborhoods, and tactical units that blanket areas experiencing spikes in crime.
Sheriff Bob White said he hated to disband the units, but he needs the strength in patrol.
And, he said, the economic climate dictated it.
First, local government budgets began tightening because of a diving housing market, and a voter mandate shrinking property tax revenue. Then the broader economy went into free fall.
As a result, White hasn't been able to add any deputies to his ranks for two years.
So over the past few months, he said, he has gathered advice from agency commanders and made decisions to eliminate some jobs, move others into patrol positions, usher retirements of some high earners and renegotiate contracts — all to save money and allocate resources in the most efficient way.
"We are actually putting more deputies on the front lines," he said.
The changes to patrol also mean sergeants will have smaller squads to supervise, easing the burden on them and their deputies. It's a change the public won't notice, White said, but the deputies will.
Among the numerous changes, White:
• Eliminated accreditation, a kind of peer review of policies and procedures.
• Moved the chief helicopter pilot's job and the agricultural unit's sergeant to patrol.
• Cut one attorney's job.
• Saved thousands by renegotiating contracts, including the one for cell phone service.
• Replaced two senior captains who earned more than $90,000 a year with two new captains earning less.
• Suspended all non-mandatory out-of-county training for commanders.
White said he's also working to expand his volunteer corps and security patrols, and plans to implement electronic transfer of traffic tickets, saving money in the long run.
White, who said he had mixed emotions about the changes, said he expects the agency still will function well, even with no "bells and whistles."
His final warning: "This is all I've got. I can't pull another rabbit out of the hat. This is the endgame."
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.