When you hear that the National Guard has been called in, the first thing that comes to mind is – where's the natural disaster? Jefferson County, Alabama isn’t facing a natural disaster; it's facing a fiscal one. Now the sheriff there says he needs help and he’s calling for backup.
Sheriff Mike Hale says there won't be enough cops to patrol the streets in his county and the National Guard may be needed to protect the community. He spoke to Joe Johns on CNN’s “American Morning” Thursday.
Joe Johns: When you look at this thing, the first thing that comes to mind is the county's image. And I wonder if people are speaking to you this morning about whether this is a good PR move so to speak.
Mike Hale: It's not about a PR move. The folks in Jefferson County elected me to keep neighborhoods and communities safe. The only thing I have failed to do is have the local government understand what their first responsibility is – and that's to keep neighborhoods and communities safe. They've broken a contract with the people of Jefferson County and my job and my plan is to make sure that the governor will give us some funds to keep the deputies rolling. And if funds are unavailable, I need some force multipliers to work with my deputy sheriffs to keep this community safe.
Johns: Give us an idea of what would happen on the streets of the county if you didn't ask for the National Guard and if this whole thing went into effect.
Hale: I think you can take a look at the night before that the court ruled against us. I had a homicide in one sleepy community; I had a homicide in another town. And in a very sleepy town, I had a burglary right there at one of the main businesses. The criminals are looking out and seeing how this county commission is funding law enforcement and I've just got a plan to – you know what? If the county commission won't fund me, and I've got to go to the state for help, the Jefferson County deputies and myself, we're going to get the job done and Jefferson County's going to be safe.
Johns: Now, they actually were talking about cutting your budget about $1 million more than they did, right? How did that happen?
Hale: Look, I had $9 million left for the remainder of the year. They cut over 40%. They cut over $4 million. And the county money will run out in the first of September. I have some money that my office has from serving papers – I'm going to have to pay the deputies out of my office – and that will go until the end of October. I can only afford to pay enough deputies to work in the jail and a very minimal force in law enforcement. So I need either funds to pay the full force or the National Guard that I can swear in as deputy sheriffs to work with the deputy sheriffs, the small force remaining to protect the citizens.
Johns: You have picked up some money from drug raids I hear and confiscations, condemnations, and so forth. Can you use that money? Is it available to you?
Hale: Absolutely. Look, I can use – I can write checks to the remaining deputies up to about $1.5 million. Now I have some federal condemnation money that I just got off the phone with [Department of Justice] yesterday, and that can't be used to pay salaries. … Look, we're well past buying equipment. We need to be able to fund the salaries of deputy sheriffs for the remaining of this budget year. This is what this is about. I call it stars on the doors of these cars. The public needs to see that. The criminals need to see it and be afraid to commit a crime.