An enthusiastic crowd attended the town hall held for Sheriff Doug Schuster at the Dolan Springs Community Center on Feb. 9. A packed house included members of newly forming neighborhood watches in Dolan Springs and Meadview hoping to hear news of eventual law enforcement backup for their efforts. Also in attendance were residents from areas outside the towns, also fed up with the thefts, burglaries, and more recently, home invasions with police response taking hours.
Most of us who choose to live in rural areas don’t expect “standards” established in highly-populated, well-funded areas to be met. However, with the standard for Mohave County being 1.57-2.0 deputies per 1,000 population, as reported by Sheriff Schuster, and the reality being just .094 per 1,000, there is a serious lack of law enforcement coverage, and not just in outlying areas. He has one deputy for each 184 square miles and it should be one per square mile. The entirety of District 4, which includes Chloride, Dolan Springs, White Hills and Meadview, has one deputy, Sgt. Carlos Rooks. Thank you, Sgt. Rooks!
With the population more than doubling in Mohave County since 1990, and the sheriff’s staff down by 7 percent, Schuster named the culprits; turnover and morale. He explained it takes $100,000 and one year of training to get a recruit up to speed, but then surrounding areas snatch them up with higher pay and better benefits and he has to start all over again. The outside areas “thank him kindly” as their training budgets shrink and his soars.
The sheriff said he would prefer deputies who live here and are invested in their community. He invited everyone to get the word out, if there are any local young people who might want to get into law enforcement, to come see him. As for morale, he has been working on a “new culture” within the sheriff’s department that promotes mutual respect and cooperation between the department and citizens. He said the sheriff’s department was receiving six complaints a week when he started; they now receive none. He said his department is 100 percent transparent. If they make a mistake they admit it and learn from it, sharing all. The sheriff said his department is working hard to get where they need to be, and he needs the communities’ help to get there.
Schuster reported that during the first year of his 10 year plan he hopes to have a station with two live-in deputies in Dolan Springs to cover District 4. “No promises!” he said. He is lobbying individual board members on the Mohave County Board of Supervisors, for $1.58 million. He needs our communities’ support.
The sheriff had much more to say about the sheriff department interaction with the neighborhood watch and posse programs and how effective they are working together.
For now, let’s focus on getting our sheriff, who is sincere and dedicated to serving and protecting our communities, the funding he needs to do so.