'Someone is going to get hurt, someone is going to die'

YAKIMA, Wash. -- KIMA has covered concerns about a handful of Yakima Sheriff's Office positions which will likely be cut in the next few months. Cuts to this office have happened many times in the past five-years. The Sheriff's Office is concerned for your safety. Taxpayers passed a crime tax to stop that very thing from happened.

So why is it not enough? Action News sat down with both sides to find out.

Over the past five years, the number of people on staff at YSO has fallen from 70 in 2005 down to 51 this year.

"We're to the point where we cannot do the job anymore," said Matt Steadman. "We can't do it safely for us. We can't respond properly to assist the citizens on the emergency calls."

The Sheriff's Office is now bracing for even more cuts. It's expected to lose an additional four to five people in January.

"Someone is going to get hurt, someone is going to die," he said.

"We are covering the whole county with six or seven deputies at a time, and that's outrageous," said Deputy Aaron Wuitschick.

Overtime has skyrocketed to cover the shifts. You passed the three-tenths sales tax to add more deputies. So it's natural to ask, where did your money go?

"So you don't think that you mishandled the money," asked KIMA

"No," said Sheriff Ken Irwin.

Irwin said his costs have risen while revenue has dropped. He calls on Yakima County leaders to do more to ensure public safety, but if you ask them Commissioners say they are doing all they can.

"The combined law and justice, including the sheriff, get 82% of our general fund, plus three-tenths," said Yakima County Commissioner Mike Leita. "Ask the Sheriff why he reduced the allocation from 31% to 27%."

The Sheriff has control over that money and chose to give more to other entities. So the commissioner says he has no right to complain.

The sheriff admitted he reduced the funding of three-tenths to the sheriff's office, but said that original plan was made before vital money made from jail beds fell through. He maintains he has no choice but to continue cutting staff unless Yakima County can bring in more money.

The number of cuts made to the Sheriff's Office depends on their budget. That will be decided in the next few months. As it stands, two of the positions would be unfilled following a retirement, the other two would be through layoffs.