There's clearly a minority recruiting problem in the Dane County Sheriff's Office. Only 4% of its employees are racial minorities, compared to 19% at the Madison Police Department.
So why did Sheriff Gary Hamblin spend less than $750 on minority recruitment this year?
During the County Board's budget deliberations Wednesday night, Hamblin told supervisors, "We don't spend money just to spend money." He noted that the office has worked to attract minority candidates, including attending job fairs and printing brochures. "We can do all of those things for a relatively small amount of money."
Hamblin added that supervisors should not compare Dane County to Madison, since the city polices minority neighborhoods, giving it better opportunities to recruit. "There are no minority communities in rural Dane County," said Hamblin, adding that minorities are more attracted to Madison's police force because it pays better than does the Sheriff's Office.
But Supv. Richard Brown couldn't get past the fact that Hamblin's 2006 budget included $15,000 for minority recruitment, and he didn't use more of the money. "Nothing's been done," he grumbled.
Brown introduced a budget amendment that would have forced the Sheriff's Office to take the nearly $30,000 set aside for minority recruitment in 2007 and use it solely for a cadet training program at MATC.
But new Sheriff-elect Dave Mahoney, who will replace Hamblin in January, didn't want the money to come with strings attached.
"I'd ask that this body not limit me [as] to how we implement the program," he said, adding that he's working on a plan to improve minority recruitment. "This has been the No. 1 topic that we've been in discussion on."
Most liberals on the board agreed with Mahoney that he should be allowed to decide how to spend the money and Brown's amendment ultimately failed.
The next day, Supv. Brett Hulsey called Brown's amendment a political move. "What the conservatives are trying to do is set up the progressives to say we don't care about minority recruitment," he says. "It's not that we don't care, it's that we want a plan to spend the money."
The County Board went on to approve its $450 million budget for 2007, which includes $4.2 million for a new Huber facility, $28 million for a new Badger Prairie Health Care Center and $1.5 million for land conservation.