Scathing audit rips apart Hamilton Co. Sheriff's Department

HAMILTON COUNTY, OH (FOX19) - A scathing audit rips apart the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department charged with protecting residents of Hamilton County.

Sheriff Jim Neil says he wanted this audit done to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the department. Now that it's been released, Neil says it's clear they're suffering in the areas of staffing, training, and technology.

"Static and highly resistant to change", "failure to identify, train, and promote up and coming leaders" - These are just a couple excerpts from the audit completed by former Cincinnati police chief Tom Streicher and civil rights attorney Scott Greenwood.

"Every man and woman in this sheriff's office has ideas, but what we're looking for our the best ideas," said Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil.

One key issue is staffing, particularly in the corrections division. Down more than two dozen employees the audit states, the "HCSO is one serious confrontation away from a catastrophe- a riot, or a deputy, civilian employee, visitor, or an inmate killed- due it's understaffed correctional facilities."

"We cut so deep that we went into meat and now if we make any more cuts we're cutting into bone," explains Neil.

The audit states that Leis, who was sheriff for 25 years before Neil, wasn't keeping up on technology and training. A mid-level supervisor indicated that in his twenty-plus year academy he never had updated use of force training beyond the initial academy.

"I will use dollars that we raise through asset forfeitures to cover a lot of the technology improvements and even some training," said Neil.

Neil stresses that one positive that came out of the report was the discipline and resiliency of the staff despite deep budget cuts.

"As far as motivation to do the job, they're very motivated, very dedicated men and women."

Neil says he's been with the sheriff's office for more than 30 years and this is the first independent audit that he can remember. Now they're just looking towards the future and are using this to make improvements.

Sheriff Neil says this is only phase one of the process and soon they'll receive recommendations from the performance review on how to become more efficient.

Copyright 2013 WXIX. All rights reserved.