Sheriff: Deeper cuts may require officer layoffs

Mayor's office says sheriff should not have been surprised

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Sheriff John Rutherford says he may need to lay even more staff after learning that Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown's proposed cuts to the department are $6.1 million deeper than Rutherford was first told.

Rutherford said he was already going to have to lay off 58 corrections officers, 71 community service officers and some civilian staff because of a $22 million reduction in funding for the coming year, but he's now learned he must cut $28.1 million out of his budget.

Rutherford said that unless his department can get credit for saving money last year, he may have to lay off some sworn police officers to accommodate the larger reduction.

Calling the situation "grave," Rutherford wrote to Brown and members of City Council that a worst-case scenario would force him to cut a total of 114 sworn officer positions.

"I look forward to continuing to work with each of you to hopefully find a solution that doesn't result in these draconian cuts to public safety services," Rutherford wrote.

The mayor's chief financial officer told Channel 4's Jim Piggott that the amount budgeted for the Sheriff's Office has not changed, and in meetings leading up to the release of the budget, the sheriff knew the numbers were not cast in stone.

"He did not know the figure," CFO Ronald Belton said Wednesday. "We were talking to him in that kind of range."

Belton said the city will work with Rutherford to try and avoid laying off officers.

"I think we ought to have more conversation about that," Belton said. "He knows again his number better than I do.  We are open to discuss anything and everything with him.

Ken Jefferson, Channel 4 crime analyst and former candidate for sheriff, said there are other options instead of laying off officers.

There's a lot of money tied up in appointed positions. Appointed positions overload, I would like to phrase it," said Jefferson.

Jefferson said the department is top heavy with too many supervisors sitting in offices. Public record available online show a number of JSO employees making six-figures. The average of the top 30 earners in the department make $128,000 a year.

"You've got 18 assistant chiefs and 12 division chiefs, 5 directors. You've got to sometime look at all that fat on top before you start cutting the men and women that's actually doing the work that's making our streets safer," said Jefferson.

City Council will have the ultimate say on the budget. Those discussions will begin next month and the budget must be finalized by Oct. 1.

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