Sheriff proposes funding for new patrol vehicles

Published 9:20 pm Thursday, February 15, 2024

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Sheriff Chris West met with the Lowndes County Commission on Jan. 8, and requested $35,000 for three new police package, crew cab trucks. The commission granted West’s request.

“We added new deputies so that Lowndes County would have law enforcement coverage every hour of the day, especially with the development of the new interstate,” West said. “Since our county is so close to Montgomery County and the Montgomery city limits, a lot of the crime there flows over into Lowndes County. That’s why we need these vehicles. It’s important when it comes to maintaining a 24- hour watch over our county, homes, and businesses.”

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Following the Jan. 8 meeting, West discovered the information he had about the price of those vehicles was incorrect, and the cost for those vehicles had gone up by roughly $10,000. 

West went in front of the commission again on Jan. 22 and let them know the price he presented at the previous meeting was incorrect. The new price he gave commissioners for the police package, crew cab trucks totaled around $46,000. 

The sheriff presented the commission with a list of nine or ten vehicles that ranged in mileage between 150,000 and 270,000 miles. West explained that the majority vehicles in the department’s fleet had been in service since Sheriff Williams was the sheriff for Lowndes County and were originally purchased used from the Alabama State Surplus.

The used vehicles were put into service because the Sheriff’s Department was trying to cut down costs and keep budget cuts to a minimum. 

West said it is important that the cars be purchased because of the increasing number of personnel the force has been gaining.

“We have more officers now because of the increase in our area of responsibility,” West said. “We have a 24-hour law enforcer over on Interstate 65 where the truck stops are because of a spike in business there. In the past there were no officers on duty for 24 hours, we had officers on the clock for 16 hours a day. The other 8 hours there would be officers on call but none on duty.”

With the purchase of the new vehicles, the Sheriff’s Department will be able to pull the old patrol trucks that are causing high upkeep costs and take them off of the road.

In addition to the concerns over the vehicles, Sheriff West requested the commission not cut the Sheriff Department’s budget after the cut had been proposed. 

A budget cut would negatively affect the amount of personnel that services Lowndes County, he explained. 

West also said that although Lowndes County does not pay as well as other counties, there are other incentives in place that benefit the Sheriff’s Department personnel.

“The commission thinks that deputies should only drive their own personal vehicles in and out of the county which poses another problem,” West said. “Places like Montgomery County, Autauga County, Elmore County, and other surrounding areas pay their law enforcement way more than what our deputies start at, so in order to get good quality deputies we have to give them incentives. One of the biggest incentives for people even though the pay is so low, is that they get a chance to take a vehicle home which helps them cut down on fuel and vehicle maintenance.”

Along with fuel costs, the department has several software programs that are critical to their daily operations and are not able to cut funds to these programs because they are vital to ensuring the law enforcement agency runs effectively.

West urges against these budget cuts and said that he understands the community’s funding issues but still advises against making cuts to the county’s law enforcement.

“I know Lowndes County needs money and they are trying to save money wherever they can, but when you start to cut your law enforcement funding it won’t matter how much you save because crime will begin to take over,” West said. “When you cut spending towards the law enforcement, the community ends up paying for it.”

Similar to Sheriff West, Tony Green, Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office Investigator, said that he strongly advises against a budget cut. 

“Budget cuts affect manpower and with the number of cases we are covering now with a limited number of personnel, it doesn’t allow us to get out and respond as quickly as we would like,” Green said. “Without personnel there’s only so much we can do as a law enforcement agency.”