Because of serious budget cuts and possible bankruptcy, the county where I live has had to make severe cutbacks. The Jefferson County sheriff fought the cuts tooth and nail, trying to get his department exempt from the layoffs all the other departments were facing.
When his budget was finally cut in June — after the defeat of a legislative bill that would have allowed the county to raise taxes — Sheriff Mike Hale announced that his deputies would no longer have time to respond to calls about accidents in unincorporated parts of the county. It struck me as a petulant move to try to create pain on the part of the public and create pressure to get his budget back.
Friday, his busy deputies found time for some real police work. Sheriff’s deputies raided a couple of bingo parlors that were using electronic bingo machines that the sheriff and the state believe are illegal. The bingo operators have had some success in court arguing that their machines don’t violate state anti-gambling laws. Either way, the law and court rulings on the issue aren’t clear, so it’s far from clearcut about whether any laws are being broken.
What is clear, though, is that a sheriff’s office doesn’t have time to serve the everyday needs of the public in minor emergencies, but does somehow have the time to go raid bingo halls that are conducting voluntary transactions with paying customers who are willingly going there and enjoying their time.
(Let me be clear that I think gambling is a tax on people who can’t do math, but if that’s what people want to waste their money on, it’s no different from any other wasteful activity.)
What we see in the priorities of this sheriff’s office is the idiocy of statist political thinking. Whatever priority is important to the people in positions of power is the one that’s pursued, not the ones that really make a difference to everyday people. If budget cuts make it difficult to do the complete job adequately, it makes sense to prioritize. Cutting services that apply to everyday people — while still wasting resources on attacking marginal operations that aren’t forcing anyone to come in — is completely irresponsible.