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Audit Critical of Sheriff's Office Under Leis
HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio (Paula Toti) -- An audit done on the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office calls the department frozen in time, lacking training, staffing and technology. It was commissioned by the new Sheriff Jim Neil when he took office in January.
The Office was run by Sheriff Simon Leis for more than two decades. We tried to reach Leis but did not hear back.
The audit says staffing at the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office is bare bones.
Sheriff Jim Neil says it's an area he started working on right away by consolidating divisions in his office. Neil said, "in doing so we have fewer commanders, so money saved were invested in boots on the ground." 30 deputies were immediately hired through the jail academy and they just hired another 15.
The audit says the agency was so resistant to technology that the hostility and fear of technology required higher staffing levels in some areas. it even said Sheriff Simon Leis and chief deputy Sean Donovan didn't utilize email.
Donovan said "the department adjusted to the economy, was efficient and when it comes to technology it was updated."
He pointed to a six million dollar federal grant that allowed for laptops in every patrol car.
Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann told us there are needs across the board but this is a long way from putting lives at risk. he called "the tone of the report irresponsible".
One author of the report is former Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Streicher. He said, "it's not an overstatement to say safety has been at risk because of less staff and less training".
Neil said, "we are sending more of our deputies to training.
On a bright note the report says the military style management of Leis, while making employees resistant to change, has also led to a very disciplined, loyal and proud staff. It notes lawsuits typical of departments of this size have likely been avoided as a result.
This report is only phase one. Specific recommendations will be presented to Neil and the county.
To see the sheriff's office performance report: