Friday, June 16, 2017

Civil grand jury report recommends Monterey County Sheriff’s Office hire directly for patrol, jail

Salinas >> Among the findings in its initial report, the 2016-2017 Monterey County civil grand jury recommends the Sheriff’s Office begin hiring deputies directly for patrol or the county jail.
The civil grand jury toured Monterey County Jail and the juvenile detention facilities and one of the issues that stood out was the staffing situation at the jail and on patrol. While the report explains the Board of Supervisors could alleviate the situation with additional funding for more sheriff’s deputies, it recommends the county investigate the use of correctional officers where appropriate.
According to the report, a correctional officer is a “self-contained and valid job description” that the grand jury observed at state correctional facilities in the county. They differ from deputies in that they are non-sworn officers who do not carry weapons and work for less compensation than deputies.
The county reached a settlement in 2015 to a lawsuit claiming the conditions in the jail violated federal and state laws, failed to protect inmates from violence, failed to provide the inmates with adequate medical and mental health care and did not provide reasonable accommodations for inmates with disabilities. In the settlement, the county agreed to adequately staff the jail. Deputies were reassigned from patrol to the jail, which resulted in a severe shortage of deputies assigned to patrol.
While the Sheriff’s Office created correction specialist and correction specialist supervisor positions to ease the shortage of deputies, correctional officers would be able to handle many duties correction specialist supervisors are not allowed by law to perform. The grand jury recommends the adoption of a job description and an approved pay scale for correctional officers.
“A staffing implementation plan should be adopted that will, over time, eliminate the use of a deputy to fill a job that could be performed by a more modestly compensated and less highly trained correctional officer,” the report states.
Deputies with the Sheriff’s Office work on patrol, at the jail or as bailiffs in the courts. Academy graduates get assigned directly to the jail and must work there for several years before requesting a transfer to patrol duty. The report states this may not be the preference of deputies and can lower morale while patrol skills go unused and deputies need retraining on the job once they leave the jail. It called the policy a deterrent to recruitment. The grand jury recommends the county hire an outside personnel consulting firm to conduct a job analysis for two assignments: jail and patrol.
“Having these two separate job classifications would have a positive impact on recruiting, retention, advancement and morale,” the report states.
The report also calls for the Board of Supervisors to budget funds for more deputies, which it argues could save the county money by avoiding overtime costs.
More than $6 million was spent between March 2016 and March 2017 on overtime due to staffing shortages. The report explains that money could have paid for 40 additional deputies at a rate of $125,000 for salary and benefits and left another $1 million for overtime. The starting salary for new deputies upon graduation from the academy is $75,396 per year.
“Reducing the number of authorizations for deputies is a self-defeating proposition,” the report states. “To do so will continue to waste our tax dollars on unnecessary overtime.”
The Sheriff’s Office staffs 238 deputies, with 23 of them currently attending police academy. Only one of the 262 deputy positions authorized by the Board of Supervisors remains unfilled. A total of 122 deputies are employed in the jail, with 66 on patrol. Staffing required to cover absences for vacations, illness, injuries or personal matters is estimated to be 25.
“Both the jail and patrol are understaffed,” the report states. “The number of deputies reassigned from patrol to the jail has left patrol in a state of crisis.”
A representative from the Sheriff’s Office did not respond for comment by press time.
June 15, 2017
Monterey Herald
By Tom Wright

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