On Tuesday, the Cochise County Board of Supervisors approved the acceptance of over $1.4 million in Operation Stonegarden funding. The Board unanimously approved the money which will allow Sheriff Mark Dannels and his deputies to continue their efforts to intercept human and drug trafficking across the border.
Just to the north, Pima County supervisors are expected to reject the funding during its May 7 Board meeting.
Both counties have accepted the federally funded grant for over a decade, but a majority of the Pima County supervisors, who had previously accepted it the money, are rejecting it now as part of the Resistance movement.
The Operation Stonegarden grant awarded to the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) by the Department of Homeland Security includes $570,000 to pay for employee, overtime and mileage expenses incurred through its support of the U.S. Border Patrol and other federal partners working to secure the international border.
According to Lieutenant Ken Foster, the Sheriff’s office, it will receive $917,052 to buy equipment to assist in activities related to Operation Stone Garden. The lion’s share – $617,052 – will be used to purchase a Simulcast Repeater Site to improve radio communications between all law enforcement agencies in Cochise County
“It will greatly enhance the coverage area throughout Cochise County, including the border regions, and provide much needed coverage ability for federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to communicate via radio,” Foster advised the Board.
The CCSO will also acquire eight license plate readers, to be deployed along prime roadways more likely to see illegal activity. The technology will alert deputies to “vehicles of interest” that may be transporting narcotics, undocumented aliens, weapons, or illegal proceeds across the border. The cost of this project is $300,000.
Counties had raised nonpolitical concerns about the reoccurring annual grant and the potential increase in costs to their long-term unfunded liability for personnel nearing retirement. However, the CCSO says it has addressed this by mostly deploying deputies who have less than ten years of service, and whose salary and overtime costs do not impact the PSPRS unfunded liability.
Lieutenant Foster added the amount of overtime is also limited to avoid deputy “burn out.”
“I think the limitation is good and I appreciate you doing that,” said Supervisor Ann English.
In Februrary, Pima County Supervisors Ally Miller and Christy withdrew their appointees from the Community Law Enforcement Partnership Committee. The Committee was formed as part of a deal to allow Sheriff Napier to receive Stonegarden funds. Instead, Supervisors Ramon Valadez, Sharon Bronson, and Richard Elias stacked the Committee with open border anti-law enforcement members. [Related article Bronson Demands Stonegarden Rejection, Or LEPCP Expansion ]
The Committee, tasked with recommending funding to the Board of Supervisors, voted earlier this month to recommend against acceptance.
“I’m not willing to legitimize a committee made up of individuals who continually toss out baseless accusations against our law enforcement personnel,” stated Miller at the time. “I can’t, in good conscience, empower a group with members who have an agenda to incite hatred and possibly violence against our first responders who put their lives on the line for us each and every day.”
Miller said the committee has attempted to function without a clear scope and purpose for the last several months, but “has been unable to serve the needs of the community while providing anti-law enforcement community activists a taxpayer-funded soapbox.”
Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, in an appearance on the James T. Harris radio show in 2018, explained why the cartels are thrilled with Pima County’s crisis.
Harris asked Lamb if the Pima County supervisors’ vote would impact the people of Pinal County. “Absolutely,” said Lamb. “I can’t believe Pima County would make that decision. Take the politics out of it, okay? This is 1.6 million; it’s probably more because Stonegarden’s grant increased this year. So that’s a lot of money to Pima County. Well, what that says to us in Pinal County is: if you’re not going to take that money then you’re not spending any extra time, you’re not working with Border Patrol, there’s no extra duty going into protecting our borders. That is inevitably going to have an effect on our county and increase the traffic into our county.”
“It’s going to have a huge impact. You know you’re creating a little soft zone there for the cartels; for the drugs and the human trafficking to come in. I’m not saying that to knock the guys on the ground – the Border Patrol; they are doing a great job and they will continue to do a great job. But you are eliminating those extra shifts and you’re weakening the Border Patrol’s mission is because you’re eliminating that. If you don’t think that the cartels know what the politics are in Tucson, you’re kidding yourself. They know exactly what it is and they would love nothing more than to see that $1.6 million go away in extra duties. What that means is that they have a lot more opportunities to pass the drugs through.”