Sheriff, deputies preparing for bigger role in traffic enforcement as Metro police scale back
Mayor's office critical of move, questions motives
Last Updated: 250 days ago
The Marion County sheriff has ramped up training, especially in the area of traffic safety enforcement.
The sheriff insists that his 700 special deputies never lost the authority to write tickets and make arrests.
"I don't think the public that watches all the traffic laws have a problem with sheriff's deputies pulling over reckless drivers, drunk drivers, whatever it may be," Sheriff John Layton said. "We're doing what they put us in office to do."
The sheriff is getting ready for a bigger role because Metro police have scaled back theirs.
Faced with dwindling manpower, Metro has put traffic officers into more traditional police roles in high-crime areas, resulting in ticket revenues dropping by $2.7 million and crashes, injuries and deaths increasing.
The sheriff said the people of Marion County elected him to keep the peace, and that's what he intends to do.
"Are we ramping it up? It may seem that way. But deputies have been writing tickets forever and we're going to continue to write tickets because that's the right thing to do," Layton said. "That's law enforcement, and that responsibility can't be taken away."
The sheriff has an ally in the Marion County Prosecutor. The drop in ticket-related revenues has impacted Terry Curry's office by more than $1.2 million dollars. Curry said IMPD's staffing levels have also impacted critical investigations.
"Clearly we want to help find a solution to all of these cases where all of these cases have been adversely staffed," Curry said. "And if that includes the sheriff taking on additional responsibilities, then we're participating in these discussions."
Some critics have challenged the limits of a special deputy's legal authority to not only write tickets but also make arrests. Judge William Young, who oversees 100,000 traffic cases a year in Marion County, doesn't see an issue.
"I believe that whether it's a traffic ticket or whether they see somebody in a hit and run, or they see somebody robbing somebody on the street, I think they have full police authority to be able to do that," Young said.
The mayor's office is critical of the sheriff's efforts to expand his law enforcement role, accusing Layton of trying to undo the merger, one small step at a time.
Friday afternoon, the mayor's chief of staff questioned how the sheriff can complain about a $20 million shortfall and still have deputies available to write traffic tickets.
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