Maketa says he'll hire 20 deputies

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Sheriff Terry Maketa reportedly is beefing up patrols — an initiative his primary opponent, Monument Police Chief Jake Shirk, has proposed as a key campaign plank for months.

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Sources from within the department say Maketa talked to his staff this week about the change. In response to questions, sheriff's spokeswoman Lt. Lari Sevene wrote in an e-mail, "The Sheriff is working on a plan to hire 20 deputies before the end of the year. Details regarding this will be released as it becomes available."

Traditional patrol staffing under Maketa has been six to eight deputies per shift.

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Here's Shirk's pitch from his website:
* Over the first 18 months, reorganize/reprioritize personnel in the Law Enforcement Bureau to help reduce emergency response times and increase cover for Street Patrol Deputies with a 20% increase of Deputies on Street Patrol.

* Other responsibilities are extremely important, but currently there are 1,600 square miles of unincorporated county where the Sheriff’s Deputies are the first responders to emergencies and 911 calls and 6-8 Deputies per shift is not enough; for the safety of the Deputies and the citizens, we must focus on getting more deputies on the street without asking for a tax increase.

Shirk's campaign spokesman Kyle Fisk says he has no comment for now but will have something to say next week.

Maketa's glossy 2008 annual report, the most recent available, notes:

The Patrol Division is composed of sixty-one deputies, seventeen sergeants and three lieutenants who provide primary law enforcement services to approximately 160,000 citizens living in the unincorporated area of El Paso County. During 2008, calls for service increased by 23% over 2007. Property crimes such as theft, burglary, and automobile theft account for much of the increase.

While most law enforcement agencies have established the requirement of 2.0 sworn peace officers per 1,000 residents served, the Law Enforcement Bureau operates at a ratio of 0.7 deputies per 1,000 residents served. Despite this shortage of personnel, the average response time to calls for service is just over 12 minutes.

In June 2008, Maketa idled many patrol units due to soaring gasoline prices that pinched his budget. Patrol deputies sat in their cars outside fire stations and other central locations and waiting for 911 calls instead of patroling.

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