The Faulkner County Quorum Court had a special meeting on Aug. 4 to hear from Sheriff Tim Ryals about the COPS grant.
Ryals is adamant about not wanting the taxpayers to pay for the county’s portion of the grant, but also determined the sheriff’s office needs to have more funding in order to improve the department.
The U.S. Department of Justice will provide $741,267 of the funding and the county has to supply the remaining $274,089 to hire six deputies during a three-year period. The Justice of Peace allocated $349,542 on July 21 for this portion of the grant. The debate now is deciding where this allocated money will come from within the quorum court’s budget.
Justices of the peace discussed ways to fund the grant that doesn’t affect taxes. They brought up funding by outstanding court fines and fees, collecting 75 percent of fines and fees, collecting money from county general.
The complexity of this issue is what drove the quorum court to discussing the COPS grant for a second meeting before voting.
The county general fund has been set up to help fund other needs of the county such as an animal shelter, staffing and general improvement.
“I think that the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Department has always been understaffed, underfunded and under equipped, but you don’t hear us complaining about that. You just hear us when we answer the call,” Ryals said.
Ryals expressed concern in the ability of the sheriff’s department to function, especially during these unprecedented times between a global pandemic and high racial tensions.
The biggest reasons for the need the grant includes the need for jail expansion, technology improvements, staffing and staying competitive in the marketplace, he said.
Faulkner County is the fifth-largest county in Arkansas, and the sheriff’s department is unequipped for riots, which has led them to using personal employment companies to purchase these materials, Ryals said.
Ryals also discussed the need for better training.
“You operate how you train,” he said.
As of now, the sheriff’s department has to deal with issues when they come up – and Ryals no longer wants to have to operate the department in this fashion.
“We cannot keep robbing Peter to pay Paul. Public safety needs to be a priority and any reallocation of funds hurts county citizens and disrupts county employees,” Ryals said.
Quorum court voted to let the taxpayers decide whether they want a tax increase in November.