New Emery Sheriff wants 'living wage' for deputies
After answering questions about the Emery County Sheriff's Department equipment needs, policies and future work with the community, new Emery County Sheriff Greg Funk stopped the questioning and looked across the room.
"What I really want to talk about is my deputies," he said. "They are so important to me. I had a big shock when I found out how much they were making. Many are making barely $15 per hour. I have one that has been here over 20 years who is barely making $20. A Utah Highway Patrolman after seven or eight years makes that much. One of my main goals is to bring the personnel in this department up to a livable wage."
Funk knows that the morale of an organization isn't all based on how much someone makes, but on other things to. However, money shows respect for service and ability.
"How can you raise a family on that kind of money?" he then asked.
He knows because he and his wife Jessica are raising four kids from two years to 16 years old right now.
Funk also knows what it's like to be a foot soldier in the law enforcement world. He began his police career in 1996 after a short stint working for PacifiCorp in Salt Lake. He had put himself through POST training and got a job with the Emery Sheriff's Office. Eventually he became a detective in the department and then worked in the drug task force. He moved from there to the Utah Highway Patrol where he was a patrolman for five years until being elected sheriff in November.
"This is a great office and we have a great staff, from the secretaries who work for us to the captains," he said. "And the various county officials, the commissioners and others have bent over backwards to help me in the few days I have been here."
Funk says he has had help in preparing for taking over the department from a number of people in the state, including Steve White (Grand County Sheriff), Rick Eldridge (San Juan County Sheriff) and James Cordova (Carbon County Sheriff).
"I also got a chance to meet with Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder and he helped us a lot," said Funk, who also had Sgt. (soon to be Captain) Jeff Thomas with him when the meeting took place. "He gave us some great ideas on budgets and number crunching for the department."
One of the things Funk said he would like to see is good cooperation between Emery County law enforcement and Carbon area departments. The ties between the two counties are close with relatives on each side of the county line economic ties in terms of energy production and retail sales. His experience working with the Utah Highway Patrol and cooperating with the Carbon County Sheriff's Department and the various city police agencies was very positive, and he wants to see all the departments work together to solve problems.
Presently the Emery Sheriff's Department has 41 people. There is a substation in Green River with two deputies, a sergeant and a secretary and then the main office on Des-Bee-Dove Road near Orangeville. Included in that group are two detectives, which will be rotating positions with deputies.
"I like the idea of having deputies rotating through the detective positions," said Funk. "That way deputies who have been through it will know more about crime scene preservation when they respond to an incident"
One of the new sheriff's goals is to make the sheriff's office virtually paperless. He intends to put computers in each police vehicle within a few months. Right now no vehicles have a computer system. What does exist in the offices is divided into two systems.
"We are working with the companies that they came from to get them to work together," he said. "That hasn't been easy."
Of course the upgrades will cost money and Funk thinks he has found the funds to do what he thinks needs to be done.
"We will use grants and I have found there are some other avenues that have been untapped to get it done," he said.
Vehicles will also be needed for the revamped force. Funk says he likes the Dodge Chargers the highway patrol was using when he departed service there.
"They are reliable and I never got stuck once in mine," he said. "We will be looking to purchase six new ones, but will stay with the 50/50 split of cars to four wheel drive vehicles. There will always be four wheel drive police vehicles for every shift."
As elsewhere, drugs are one of the biggest crime problems in the area. Funk says education is a big key to keeping kids off drugs.
"I want to make their education up close and personal," he said. "We have a young man who was paralyzed because he was in an accident while on drugs. I want to have him come and address students, to show them what a drug habit can lead to. We will be working hard on education from elementary schools up through the high school."
But enforcement of drug laws is also one of his priorities.
"We are going to be very aggressive and strong concerning those that are dealing them," stated Funk.
Funk's election to the office generated a lot of excitement in the county. Many people called him to congratulate him on his victory, but some of those calls went to the wrong household.
"I have a cousin named Craig Funk and he is in the phone book so people have been calling him," he said. "He has been gracious enough to pass along the messages."
As an elected official, Funk feels the only boss he has are the citizens of Emery County. He says he wants to serve them well and to do that right he wants good communication.
"I feel we are turning a new page in the area of law enforcement in the county," he explained. "We are here for the community."