published: Friday, September 27, 2013
HCSO plans for the future
By BARRY FOSTER
SEBRING - The Highlands County Sheriff's Office has just completed and published the newest incarnation of its strategic plan. The 44-page document covers everything including the vision, goals and maintenance of the county's law enforcement operation into the year 2015.
The planning program was started by Sheriff Susan Benton in 2005, her first year as the county's top cop.
"We brought together around 175-200 citizens from all walks of life in our community and basically had a three-day workshop," Benton said.
That group reviewed the history of the Highlands County Sheriff's Office, looking back a decade and determining how the growth of the county had occurred as well as the scope of local law enforcement duties. From that, the group was asked to look at a vision of what they thought the sheriff should be doing in future years.
The first plan was for a single year, but the scope was enlarged to a revolving, three-year plan, which rolls over with each new fiscal cycle.
"Now what we do is drop the completed year and add the third year out so we have a continuous three-year plan in place," she said.
Among the listed goals in the plan are to create safer neighborhoods, enhance vehicular and pedestrian safety, assure accountability - both individually and for the agency - as well as assuring effective judicial and detention services.
Benton said some of the goals have been challenging as the office has had to balance the levels of service against budget allocations, especially in recent years.
She said the utilization of technology has been an integral part of the effort.
"When this all started, we didn't have laptops or cameras in our cars," she said. "We also have continually upgraded our software as an ongoing part of our strategic plan."
Even the recent move to the 800mz radio band for was folded in as a part of the long range strategy for the office.
"We knew that's the way the federal guidelines were headed, so that became part of what we incorporated into it," she said.
As much as the plan has been a road map for the development of the department, Benton said that some goals and priorities have had to be re-shuffled as conditions in the county have changed.
"There are times we have had to back up and punt," she said. "For instance, we had plans to build a facility that would house communications, property, evidence and laboratory and administrative functions so we could move all of that out of the jail building downtown," she said. "That didn't happen and now we have piecemealed those duties out to other locations."
Such adaptability, she said, highlighted the flexibility that has been built into the strategic plan so that the means to reach goals and objectives can be modified and amended.
At the end of the day, said the sheriff, it is all about accountability. The plan has a tracking mechanism based on how well objectives have been attained on a sliding scale from partially or uncompleted, to fully accomplished.
Benton said the plan has proved to be a good barometer of how well the office has functioned, despite setting the bar high.
"If you look back even to the first year, I don't think we have ever had a year where we accomplished less than 80 percent of our goal, which is pretty significant," she said.
The strategic plan is reviewed and updated on an annual basis, just prior to the county's annual budget review cycle. The objectives are assessed and re-prioritized if necessary based on operating expenses, crime statistics or special initiative.
HCSO (by: Gator1 - 9/27/2013)
How many more Captains does the plan call for? The administration at HCSO is top heavy for a small county department. Not to mention all the political bs. Check Leoaffairs to read more.
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