Buncombe County sheriff seeks funding for new positions, vehicles

Quentin Miller speaks at swearing-in ceremony
BIG PLANS: Sheriff Quentin Miller speaks at his swearing-in ceremony on Dec. 3. During a presentation to the Board of Commissioners on March 5, Miller asked commissioners to consider funding for 21 additional positions in the department. Photo by Able Allen

On most nights, Lt. Matthew Kiser of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office has 12-14 officers per shift patrolling the department’s 656-square-mile jurisdiction.

“And that’s [on] a good night, folks,” he told the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners and members of the audience during the board’s March 5 meeting.

In an effort to address what he sees as the department’s needs, which include increasing the number of patrol officers, Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller asked the board for additional funding to pay for 21 new positions and to increase the number of vehicles that the county replaces annually. The Sheriff’s Office estimates that its requests would create a recurring annual expense of about $3.2 million.

These changes, Miller said, would be part of an effort to enhance 21st Century Policing practices within the sheriff’s department, a model that emphasizes trust between law enforcement agencies and the public.

“As a 25-year veteran of law enforcement, I’ve witnessed the highs and lows of this profession and, unfortunately, I think we’re in a valley right now,” Miller said at the beginning of this presentation. “I’m going to describe a portion of my vision to come out of the valley.”

Because this was not a formal budget request, commissioners did not vote on whether to allocate the requested funds.

New positions

While there has been little change in the number of patrol positions over past years, the sheriff’s department notes there has been steady growth in the county’s population and the number of tourists visiting the area. “We’re having a hard time keeping up,” Kiser said.

Miller wants to add eight patrol deputies and a crime prevention sergeant, additions that he said would increase patrol coverage from 12-14 officers per shift to 14-16 officers per shift.

He also wants to hire an evidence room technician. The county sheriff’s department has 31,000 pieces of evidence and two full-time employees to manage it, Miller said in his presentation. In contrast, he added, the Asheville Police Department has five full-time and four part-time employees overseeing the evidence and property room.

The county sheriff’s department considers roughly 33 percent of its evidence to be “high-profile” — cash, drugs and guns. Having just two people on staff, the department says, prevents the office from following the “two-person rule,” a best practice in handling valuable evidence, especially when one of those employees are out sick or on vacation.

For the county detention center, Miller wants to add four intake specialists and one detention facility detective. Lt. Jeffrey Littrell, who oversees operations at the facility, said intake specialists help prevent contraband from entering the detention center and evaluate whether new inmates have ingested alcohol or drugs.

Intake specialists also question an inmate’s arresting officer, asking whether the arrestee has been combative or has said anything to indicate that he or she might be suicidal.

A detention facility detective would investigate assaults on officers, which Littrell said have increased, and any reports of inmates possessing contraband. “If they choose to come into our facility and … conduct criminal activity and assault our officers, we want to be able to prosecute them to the full extent of the law and hold them accountable,” he said.

Miller also wants to add a technology officer, a policy analyst, a sergeant overseeing professional standards, a community outreach lieutenant and two community outreach advocates.

The department estimated these new positions would require an initial investment of about $1.27 million. This figure, Miller said, could be covered in part by $315,000 in federal housing revenue, payment the department receives from the federal government for housing inmates.

If the commissioners approve all of these requests, filling the new positions would cost the county about $1.6 million annually, which would increase the Sheriff’s Office budget by 4 percent over its current fiscal year budget.

Updating vehicles

The Sheriff’s Office currently has 267 vehicles in its fleet. The department classifies 144 of those vehicles as “priority one,” which include marked and unmarked vehicles that the department uses to respond to calls for service and other enforcement roles.

Pointing to a recent survey conducted by the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association and the FBI, Sheri Powers, the business officer for the sheriff’s department, said it is standard practice among law enforcement agencies to replace priority-one vehicles that have accumulated 80,000-100,000 miles.

The Sheriff’s Office currently has 48 priority-one vehicles with more than 120,000 miles on their odometer and 14 vehicles with more than 150,000 miles, Powers said.

“This deviates from best practice and was an obvious area of need for the sheriff in the way of safety and providing the services county residents expect of the Sheriff’s Office,” she said.

The department wants Buncombe County to provide about $1.6 million annually to allow the department to replace 40 vehicles per year.

“Historically we have been underfunded in that area,” Powers said. “Over the years we’ve had between 12 and 26 vehicles replaced over an annual basis, [which] sort of compounded the effect on out fleet today.”

Time to consider

Commissioners have a few months before they vote in June on the fiscal year 2020 budget. Board Chair Brownie Newman asked Miller whether it’s likely that his department will identify more funding needs between now and then.

Avril Pinder swearing in
LET’S GET TO WORK: Newly appointed county manager Avril Pinder took the oath of office during a special meeting at 4:30 p.m. on March 5 and took up her position on the dais beside commissioners. “Four weeks ago I stood before you and accepted the manager’s position,” she said during the meeting. “I committed then to work to rebuild the public’s trust. Today, I take the oath of office as your manager, and again I recommit to you to that we will work to rebuild the public’s trust and move Buncombe County forward.” Photo by David Floyd

“I think there will be other things,” Miller said, depending on what his staff hear from people in the community.

Commissioner Joe Belcher said constituents in his district want to see more patrols. “When I hear from the public when I’m out in the community, a lot of the things that you’re requesting flies over the top of their head,” he said. “They want more presence.”

Newman cautioned that the board probably wouldn’t be able to get to everything funded “at one bite of the apple,” but also said it would be important for the board to look at all of the department’s funding requests at one time.

Commissioner Al Whitesides agreed with Newman and added that he wanted to see how Miller would prioritize these funding requests. There’s a good chance, he said, that the board would not be able to fit all these requests into a single year.

“We need to be able to prioritize, so that we’ll know what you really need now,” Whitesides said. “Because at budget time, from what little I’ve seen so far, we’ve got a lot coming at us, but we definitely want to take care of what you need.”

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About David Floyd
David Floyd was a reporter for the Mountain Xpress. He previously worked as a general-assignment reporter for the Johnson City Press.

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20 thoughts on “Buncombe County sheriff seeks funding for new positions, vehicles

  1. Lulz

    LOL collect taxes off the illegals Sheriff. Wait, what you can’t? But you’ll gladly force me out of my house if I don’t pay.

  2. Stan Hawkins

    Just a little quick math and observation. 656 square miles divided by 14 patrols per shift equal one patrol for every 47 square miles. It would be nice to know what that ratio is in similar counties?

    Sherrif does not want to cooperate with ICE, but wants and looks like needs $3.2 million in tax revenue to improve safety. I bet he could cooperate with ICE for less than $100k improving safety now, since our commissioners will most likely string his funding out for years. Unless, they rob more money from the scam on taxpayers concerning AB Tech capital improvements voted on by citizens.

    Taxpayers beware for the shell games coming in plain sight. Think safety and be aware of your surroundings, because it looks like a deputy will only be able to show up after the fact.

    • Enlightened Enigma

      after the fact is usual time to show up…but if Miller refuses to cooperate with ICE , then NO $$$ for him for anything.

      • Lulz

        Illegals have the full support of the leftists in Congress insofar as voting rights now. The example set forth is breaking the law gets one voting rights, welfare/entitlements, and immunity from prosecution. US citizens are now 2nd class and illegals are above the law.

    • luther blissett

      “I bet he could cooperate with ICE for less than $100k improving safety now”

      non sequitur: a conclusion that does not follow from the stated premise.

      • Stan Hawkins

        Having a little trouble following you say? Well, a bit of reiteration – County will not give him his $3.2 million he says he needs for public safety no doubt putting him on the installment plan. But, our Sherrif still desires to improve safety taking him at his word of course.

        So, back to safety – it “follows” that what can be done to improve safety now is something that adds only minimal administrative and sustenance cost, and within taxpayers ability to pay. Cooperate with ICE. Sherrif’s department and community satisfaction improvement would most likely “follow.”

        Thank for your “follow up”

        • luther blissett

          Please explain exactly how it would “improve safety,.”

          • Enlightened Enigma

            illegals are already criminals here by breaking into our nation without permission. End ALL immigration today! We have plenty thanks.

          • Stan Hawkins

            The question or issue is not who is less or more likely to commit crimes on US soil. The issue is in part; the United States of America has laws on the books that make it illegal to enter our country without proper documentation and permission.

            Further, and this follows logic, when persons in the country believe that their elected and law enforcement personnel will follow the law cooperating with one another – this works to prevent crime and deter unlawful entry by anyone.

            Your argument is weakened significantly when you seek to make a comparison that seeks to legitimize illegality in any individual. Your argument is further weakened when you resort to name calling, phobias, and derogatory comments about a political party.

            A question for you is; how does legitimizing illegal behavior in some (your comparison of illegal immigrants crime rates) benefit the United States of America?

          • luther blissett

            I’m sure you also support fitting automobiles with speed limiters and ignition interlocks, which would actually improve safety. That you believe ICE’s constitutionally-questionable practices “improve safety” tells us more about who and what you personally fear than about what makes communities safer.

            “when persons in the country believe that their elected and law enforcement personnel will follow the law cooperating with one another”

            You’re diluting your argument even more. Sheriff Miller has said he’ll honor warrants. His department can’t have people in other jurisdictions detained without a warrant. What is so difficult about law enforcement getting warrants?

          • bsummers

            I wasn’t “legitimizing illegal behavior”. That’s your spin. We were talking about ‘safety’. Crossing the border illegally doesn’t make one a violent criminal, as much as you and others would like to pretend it does.

            And on the subject of safety, many have made the point that turning local law enforcement into an arm of ICE makes us all less safe. Undocumented immigrants are more likely to report crimes or in other ways cooperate with police if they’re not terrified of being deported. You want a high speed chase every time they get pulled over for a bad taillight? You want them afraid to go to the hospital when they get sick, raising the chances of a disease outbreak? You want to force them into criminal behavior because they can’t earn a living otherwise? Immigration policy and enforcement is a federal issue. We need to fix it on a national level, not locally.

        • Peter Robbins

          If you want to be constructive, Stan, explain to the sheriff why he should suppose that the Constitution permits him to hold persons without a judicially-approved warrant in the particular circumstances where ICE wants them held here. Or why he should trash the Constitution at the request of the most lawless president in history. Either one.

          • Stan Hawkins

            Hey Peter,
            I believe we all are probably wise enough to consider a few possibilities. As Buncombe County becomes a community that does not cooperate with Federal authorities over issues of law enforcement, national security, ICE Detainers, etc. ; there may be less and less Federal cooperation with our community. To discount the possibility that there may be some cost financial or human seems to be taking the short view. Just a little minor use of logic suggests that a community becoming tolerant of a population in the country and community illegally may provide an incentive for more of the same. This is where Sherrif Miller and I disagree on the approach to a safer community.

            As I understand the way this has worked in the past; Buncombe arrests someone and books them in to custody. The fingerprints are then shared through the mandatory Secure Communities program. President Obama expanded this program to over 1200 jurisdictions during his administration. ICE is alerted to individuals through this program, and when believing probable cause to investigate further, requests a Detainer of the Local or State law enforcement entity to detain the individual. The request is for 48 hours to detain so that ICE can complete it’s due diligence on the individual taking custody or not. We know that the individual in question had previously met the requirement for probable cause and / or warrant to be in custody locally, otherwise the Secure Communities protocols for a Federal ICE Detainer would not be activated.

            Peter, we are not in the 9th District. It is true however, that much of this debate has been kicked down the road by our elected officials. It seems the road became more narrow after 2016, but that’s another debate. ICE has a written stated Federal Process. The county has a process of booking those arrested. The mandatory Secure Communities program has a process to alert ICE to those where probable cause may trigger a further inquiry. If a Federal Judge rules any of these processes unconstitutional, then Sherrif Miller would then be fulfilling his duties by standing down on Detainers, pending an appeal. Until then, politics aside, Miller should follow the process that worked under the prior administration.

            As always, thanks.

          • Peter Robbins

            Backatcha, Stan.

            Funny you should mention the Ninth Circuit. I see by the papers that Los Angeles County has gotten slapped pretty hard in federal court for complying with ICE detention requests. Imagine what headlines like that do to a sheriff’s ability to secure public cooperation in other areas of law enforcement.

            We don’t need to resolve all the constitutional issues here, of course. Your careful response implies that, at a bare minimum, we can agree that there exists some reasonable doubt as to whether local sheriffs can lawfully cooperate with the ICE detention requests, at least when they are unsupported by a judicially-approved warrant. My own review of the federal court decisions supports this conclusion. That being the case, I don’t see how one can fault our sheriff overmuch for choosing to be cautious in the face of uncertainty. That’s what I would do, and that’s what sheriffs in Fairfax County and Henrico County, Virginia have done. Like us, those jurisdictions are in the Fourth Circuit, not the Ninth. But we all read the same Constitution and we all have a duty to respect its limits as best we can — even when people from the federal government are here to help.

        • Lulz

          You’re trying to be rational with a person who thinks spending 3 trillion a year for single payer while also thinking open borders is good. These people are brainwashed to believe white genocide is progress and a poorer USA will bring about peace and harmony. If they assume their children and grandchildren won’t be victims to the nation they are bringing about, they are fools. Progress is to leave your children a better place. Not a 3rd world communist hellhole where a zero sum outcome is a given. And in that scenario, when someone gains another loses. Right now it’s jobs and money. In their future it’ll be lives and property. Talk of reparations points to that. So we have a black man who is now a Sheriff who can conceivably one day steal others property to satisfy reparations to pay himself with. And will enforce that through a police state that he is a part of. All the while ignoring the law in dealing with illegals.

  3. Stan Hawkins

    Perhaps a question should be considered for all concerned about a sherrif excercising caution in the face of this issue. Should the sherrif err on the side of caution in favor of legal residents who in fact voted for him? Or, should he err on the side of caution in favor of popularity in policing an illegal resident community?

    Could this story happen in our community? You may source it from other media if you prefer:

    https://www.foxnews.com/us/illegal-immigrant-with-criminal-history-arrested-in-california-womans-murder

  4. Peter Robbins

    If it’s a choice, Stan, I’d prefer a sheriff who is reluctant to seize powers that he doubts, in good faith, he has. That’s more of a presidential function.

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