Commissioner Questions Cost of Sheriff Escorts

Commissioner Questions Cost of Sheriff Escorts

At least one Shelby County Commissioner is calling for an end to the sheriff's special traffic escorts for rolling parties and social events.
MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - At least one Shelby County Commissioner is calling for an end to the sheriff's special traffic escorts for rolling parties and social events.

With emergency lights on and sirens at full blast, Shelby County Sheriff's deputies move out into traffic, escorting the king and queen of Carnival Memphis and their court from one party to another. The group also makes stops to entertain children and seniors as part of its charitable work.

As the good times roll on, the motorcade often includes a big green party bus and merry band of costumed Boll Weevils. Busy streets and stoplights are no problem.

Law enforcement driving experts call it dangerous, and Shelby County Commissioner Heidi Shafer calls it too expensive.

"I think if there's ever been a time when we need to look at every possible expense, it's now," she says.

Records show the sheriff's escorts for Carnival and other events like the Liberty Bowl, FedEx Golf Tournament and University of Memphis basketball, have cost Shelby County taxpayers $316,000 in deputy pay and overtime over the last three years.

"We're 50 million short in property tax collections," Shafer says, which is why she thinks the escorts need to stop. "The public is looking at the possibility of having a very significant tax increase put on them and before we increase taxes even one penny, I want to make sure we're looking at every penny we're spending."

Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham will likely face some sharp questions about the special escorts when commissioners consider his budget proposal this week. The sheriff declined a request for an interview until after his meeting with commissioners on Wednesday.

The Executive Director of Carnival Memphis didn't want to go on camera either. But, the organization's leaders issued a statement saying they would have to cut their carnival week travels in half without the deputies cutting their path through traffic.

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