Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers says his department needs body cameras and more deputies on the street. And he is urging residents who share his concerns about public safety to contact members of the County Commissioners and County Council before budget decisions are made this year.
At a neighborhood meeting held last night in Petersville at the Clay Township Volunteer Fire Department, Myers asked residents whether they supported body cameras and all of those in attendance said they did. Myers said he is also in favor of the cameras because they increase the safety of the deputies and the public, but the cameras are costly, at up to almost a $1,000 for each camera plus storage charges for the footage.
To get that equipment, and other public safety needs, the public needs to get involved and make the case to the County Council, which controls the budget, and the County Commissioners, who set policy in the county, Myers said.
“They need to get with their County Council representatives and they need to get with the County Commissioners and let them know what the priorities are, or what they think the priorities should be for the next budget cycle,” Myers said.
“There is only so much money but public safety is a big part of that. It all starts with public safety. Obviously we have some drug issues, heroin, methamphetamine, things like that. It takes resources to slow that down.”
Myers explained the efforts the department has made to combat the drug issue, including assigning deputies full-time to the Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team with the Columbus police and county prosecutors office, and sending a deputy to work full-time with the DEA task force in Indianapolis.
Even with those assignments, since taking office 17 months ago, Myers said he said he had added another deputy on the road to each of the department’s three shifts, by shifting personnel. But at some point it is impossible to do more with less.
And he believes that mentality now threatens public safety. He said national guidelines for staffing by population indicates that Bartholomew County should have 20 more deputies.
“There is only so much money, but I am going to be prepared to go to the County Council this year and ask for additional staffing, more deputies,” Myers said. “We will have the numbers of why we need them, we will have the number of calls. We will lay it all out. And that will have to be a decision the County Council has to make on whether or not we have given them the information they need.”
Myers said he cares little about the politics of the situation and doesn’t expect that he is popular among other elected officials in the county. But his first priority is public safety and getting the tools he needs to ensure that is more important than his career, he said.