Cops Wanted: Los Angeles Sheriff's Ranks Short by 1,000
By Troy Anderson, Staff Writer
The Daily News of Los Angeles
An inability to recruit and retain qualified deputies has contributed to a recent spate of jailhouse murders and growing response times to emergency calls, sheriff's union officials charged Friday.
While the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has hired 584 people since it began a renewed recruitment campaign in July, it has lost a similar number to surrounding law enforcement agencies and to retirement.
The department has about 8,150 sworn officers - 1,100 fewer than budgeted.
The department is losing about 430 officers a year, including 100 to 150 who take jobs at other law enforcement agencies, said Steve Remige, president of the 7,000-member Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs.
``We've had a net gain of 20 people,'' Remige said. ``If they are planning on hiring 1,100 deputies, and we're only hiring an additional 20 a year, it's going to take (55 years).''
But Sheriff Lee Baca said he expects to hire 1,000 deputies next year for a net gain of about 600.
``The hiring is not the problem,'' Baca said. ``It's the fact that we have people who are retiring and leaving to work closer to home and it takes a while to get things moving in the right direction.
``The Board of Supervisors have given us substantial funds in order to provide the necessary services. It also involves constant adjusting of overtime to fill vacancies to extend jail services, patrol services, as well as detectives.''
Because of the staffing shortage, the department expects to spend a record $160 million on overtime this fiscal year for jail and patrol deputies to work multiple shifts.
In his last semiannual report, Special Counsel Merrick Bobb wrote that the department's recruitment and hiring challenges are a result of unprecedented attrition, increased demand for law enforcement personnel throughout Southern California and a higher than normal number of retirements.
In March 2002, the department had about 9,000 sworn officers. As a result of budget cuts during the recession and a three-year hiring freeze, the department lost about 1,000 officers.
The department now faces significant challenges to rebuild its force including stiff competition from local police agencies offering higher pay and superior retirement benefits, Bobb wrote.
Those agencies are actively courting sheriff's deputies with signing bonuses, new equipment and promises they will not have to work in the jails.
After they are hired, deputies spend an average of five to eight years working in the jails before getting a patrol job at a sheriff's station, Remige said. That's up from an average of one to two years when Remige joined the department in 1979.
``Supervisor (Michael D.) Antonovich urges the sheriff to revisit the practice of placing new deputies in the jails for extended periods of time and to work with the rank and file to determine how best to make the department as attractive as possible for recruits who are beginning a law enforcement career,'' Antonovich spokesman Tony Bell said.
Remige also said he blames the Board of Supervisors' decision to cut $200 million from the department's budget in the past three years for the understaffing, which he said has contributed to eight inmate murders in two years at Men's Central Jail.
``We are paying for the mistakes of the past when the majority of the Board of Supervisors cut the sheriff's funding,'' Bell said. ``We're paying for that because the sheriff was not able to recruit and train deputies and he had to close the academy.''
But Baca said the increase in jailhouse slayings is a result in a variety of factors.
``A lot of it is because of the faulty design of the old jail,'' Baca said. ``It's also decisions made in the classification system and an antiquated jail system that is labor intensive.''
Remige also said he's received anecdotal reports from deputies that it's taking them longer to respond to calls for service, especially in unincorporated parts of the county in the Antelope Valley and elsewhere.
Sheriff's Department response-time reports show that the time it takes for a deputy to respond to a call have been increasing countywide since the supervisors slashed the department's budget in 2002.
The reports show it took an average of 4.8 minutes to respond to an emergency call in sheriff's contract cities in 2002 - rising to 5 minutes this year.
Emergency call response times in unincorporated areas rose from 6.2 minutes in 2002 to 6.4 minutes this year.
Priority calls in contract cities went from 9 minutes in 2002 to 11.1 minutes this year and similar calls in unincorporated areas rose from 10.7 minutes to 12.9 minutes.
In those years, routine calls in contract cities increased from 37.6 minutes to 42.9 minutes and in unincorporated areas from 40.7 minutes to 49.9 minutes.
If you are healthy, have a relatively clean background, and at least a GED, LASO will hire you.
AR15fan. Is it too much of a culture change for LASO to seperate the jail from the street cops. Start hiring Jail guards as a different job classification would probably be cheaper than a patrolman's pay. Then as they phase in jail guards, move the patrol deputies onto the streets.
I know up here a Sheriff's deputy is a different job classification than a "corrections officer/jail guard."
Would the Union go for it? Training guards has to take less time than a patrol officer. And that's no slight to a guard, just my impression. The biggest learning curve for a jail guard, in my mind, must be having to learn how to live with that damn smell. haha.