CORPUS CHRISTI, Tx. — The Nueces County Sheriff's Office took requests for additional personnel and equipment to the commissioner's court Tuesday as that board works out the county's budget for the next fiscal year.
Sheriff's office officials expressed the need for as many as 25 new patrol deputy positions but officially asked for only six and one patrol lieutenant. Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales appreciated the compromise.
"That's a good start because it shows that we're realistic on both sides," Judge Canales said. "We'll see what we're able to do once we look at everything."
The sheriff's office also requested new positions for four courthouse security deputies and two mental commitments deputies. All of the new personnel would cost the county $562,930 in salaries and benefits.
Nueces County Sheriff John Hooper also put in a request for four new sergeant positions at the county jail and 12 new corrections officer positions for salaries and benefits of $710,388. He says the shortage of supervisors leads to problems when people are booked into the jail and when they're released. The sheriff says additional personnel would help prevent a situation like an accidental release of an inmate.
"I'd have to scramble our warrants squad to go out and find this person who should not have been released from our jail," Sheriff Hooper said. "That could be national news. That could be a heavy liability."
In addition to requests for additional personnel, the sheriff's office also asked for new equipment. Sheriff Hooper says the fleet is aging, and the addition of two vans and two sedans for the jail and four new patrol cars for his department at the cost of $189,000 would save the sheriff's office money in maintenance costs.
"It gets to a point where maintenance of the fleet costs more than a replacement of the fleet," he said. "We're just always looking to serve in the most efficient way possible, and sometimes you have to look into new equipment."
The final request may have raised the most eyebrows. The sheriff's office asked for $75,000 for a building in which they could store blood evidence. When investigators remove evidence with blood on it from a crime scene, the blood must dry before local labs run any tests on it. Currently, the sheriff's office doesn't have a facility for drying blood evidence, so it's done on a wooden table covered in butcher paper in the sheriff's office. Judge Canales was surprised upon hearing about that and voiced concerns that a court might rule the evidence inadmissible.
"Quite frankly, everything you're telling me is a criminal defense lawyer's dream," Judge Canales said. "You just lost the chain of custody and quite frankly compromised all the evidence. I'm not even sure I want to hear any of this."