By now many Cass County residents have received the pamphlet from the Cass County Sheriff’s Office with the slogan: PROTECT OUR FUTURE – Keep Cass County Safe. Hopefully it did not immediately go into the round file cabinet because it is a very serious issue about which every citizen should be informed.
On April 4, voters will be asked a yes or no question. Shall the County Commission of Cass County, Missouri be authorized to impose a countywide law enforcement sales tax at a rate of one-fourth of one percent to be used for law enforcement purposes?
My vote will be a resounding yes!
You can hear all of the statistics about how the population increase such as Cass is experiencing causes increased crime or that dispatch calls have increased 100% in less than 20 years or that the deputy to inmate ratio standard is 1:5 but Cass has 1:35. You can read about all of the many services the Sheriff’s Office provides the county including the municipalities such as having the only K-9 unit in the county, the Drug Task Force, Search and Rescue, providing civil process and much, much more. You might even be aware of how shorthanded they are lacking 16 personnel, 14 of which are deputies and that right now there are only 3-4 on patrol at any given time to cover the entire county. “The Sheriff’s Office resources are stretched to the limit,” says Sheriff Jeff Weber. They have had to cut two important programs, Criminal Apprehension Unit and Traffic Enforcement Unit, simply because there are not enough people or funds. Could this be a part of the reason of increased crime in the county?
All of this is sad enough, but what really shocks and saddens me is the lack of raises for deputies since 2009 when a freeze was implemented and retirements were cut in half along with other benefits. Sheriff Weber says that currently there are more than 22,000 hours of unpaid holiday and vacation time on the books. These men and women put on a uniform everyday that in today’s society makes them a walking target. They risk their lives to help others. They keep our communities safe. And we have let them go nearly two decades without merit pay raises or even basic benefits that most full-time jobs provide. This is disgraceful and quite honestly embarrassing. This measure should have passed last year but for some reason the good people of this county did not feel it was merited. Really? The very people they have sworn to protect and serve could not find it in their hearts and pocket books to pay less than an extra penny on the cost of a gallon of milk to give them a decent wage? And here is the kicker this is a sales tax, not a property tax, so the burden, if ¼ of 1% can even be called that, is not solely on Cass County residents, but is shared by anyone who shops in the county.
It’s time this county steps up and does right by its Sheriff’s Department. Vote yes on Question #1, not just to keep Cass County safe, and not just because they desperately need it, but because they most certainly deserve it!