Marion County sheriff lauds audit of operations, finances

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Outgoing Marion County Sheriff John Layton applauded the findings of an audit that found his operation is underfunded, but could cut costs with the streamlining of management policies and the better utilization of data.

“We did the right thing and we told them what we need and every year we’d be cut back,” said Layton about his budget battles with the City-County Council. “It was never mismanagement of money. Never.”

The audit by KPMG confirmed Layton’s longstanding contention that his office and jail have been consistently asked to do more with less and the result has been staff burnout, excessive overtime and costly hiring and retraining practices.

“The overwhelming reason that people are walking out the door is they can’t put bread on their table with salaries that we pay,” said Layton.

The audit, released to the Council this week, found that the sheriff’s budget, when adjusted for inflation, has been reduced by two percent compared to 2005 just before IPD and the Sheriffs Department merged in a cost-cutting move.

As IMPD has added more officers to the streets, arrests climbed seven percent beginning in 2015 and bookings into the jail increased 11% while changes in state sentencing practices remanded hundreds of inmates back to Indianapolis to serve their time, resulting in a jail population that often brushed up against 100% capacity.

Staffing fell seven percent from 2015-2017 while detention deputy burnout led to a 44% attrition rate of staff inside the jail.

The audit found the Marion County Sheriffs staff make 3-22% less than their peers in other central Indiana counties.

Overtime costs climbed $5 million last year as the sheriff struggled to keep not only the jail but the 911 dispatch center fully staffed.

“They want to save money, they want to do the job on the cheap and then the people who dole out the money want to complain because the job’s not being done but yet they don’t want to pay to get the job done,” said Layton.  “Unfortunately the sheriff is always the one that gets the brunt of it because the buck stops there.”

During Layton’s tenure, while MCSO has received three top law enforcement and corrections industry certifications, it has also been the target of federal lawsuits over offender suicides and the excessive detentions of defendants ordered release by the court.

The audit advised that if MCSO were to make better use of data collection, scheduling and management procedures, revamp its arrestee transportation services, better account for inmate populations and change the way it rotates out potentially obsolete vehicles, the next sheriff might save $10 million a year.

“You cannot take care of public safety on the cheap,” said Layton who oversaw a budget well in excess of $110 million during his last year in office. “The new sheriff has to stay on top of the new budget to make sure he can finance what needs to be done.”

Colonel Kerry Forestal will be sworn in as Marion County’s new sheriff Jan. 1.

Layton said he will stay on to monitor construction of the new jail at the planned $570 million Community Justice Center on the city’s east side as well as serving as president of the National Sheriffs Association.

“Hopefully people across the country are gonna see what Marion County did and go, ‘Wow, that’s a great idea, expensive, but its gonna work.’”

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