GOLETA, Calif. - The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department is scheduling front line deputies for mandatory overtime due to staffing shortages. Four 12 hours shifts are now the "normal" schedule, and that amounts to about 16 hours of required overtime per pay period to meet the minimum staffing levels. The change has been called temporary.
The issue is not new, and the solutions are not coming quickly.
Earlier this year, the Deputy Sheriff's Association brought the growing service level problem to the Board of Supervisors during contract talks and budget hearings.
It's been described as a "crisis."
Since then, a new contract has been worked out but the hiring shortage remains a long term challenge. Recruiting, screening, and training a new deputy can take a year.
South Coast Commander Kelly Moore says he is working with all of his contract cities along with the unincorporated areas of the county to have the staff in black and white patrol units as expected by the public. "We essentially created the positions by requiring our deputies to work an extra shift per pay period," said Moore.
Some calls require multiple back up units, and those may be called in from out of the area. That occasionally causes a rotation of resources that could include both the north and south county staffs.
"We do believe we are providing the necessary service to the community,"said Moore.
He said while new deputies are months away, someone transferring from another agency usually clears some of the training hurdles quicker. In general however, "it is not like we can hire somebody tomorrow and put them on the street the next day," said Moore who has held several positions with the department. He is the former Chief of Police in Carpinteria ( under the Sheriff's contract.)
Sgt. Brad Welch with the Deputy Sheriffs' Association told NewsChannel 3 by phone the deputies are ready to respond to all calls, but the long shifts can lead to other issues such as injuries in the line of duty.
SBCDSA President Matthew McFarlin said in a released statement that the new schedule is the
best method to address the chronic staffing shortages that have
troubled the Sheriff's Department for more than a year. "With patrol deputies now
joining our jail deputies and dispatcher personnel in mandatory
overtime schedules, it's abundantly clear that our department has a
severe staffing shortage," McFarlin said. "Mandatory overtime is a burden for many of
our personnel and their families. Many of us will be adjusting our
activities, especially child care schedules," McFarlin said.
The Deputy Sheriff's Association stated support for the 4-12 schedule,
but only as a temporary measure while Sheriff's and County officials
address the underlying issue of chronic staffing shortages.
The Deputy Sheriff's Association has warned County and Sheriff's
officials repeatedly that the problems recruiting and retaining
well-qualified personnel will only increase in the coming years. "The number of
proficient young people who want to be police officers has taken a
dive in recent years," said McFarlin. "Very few well-qualified people look at
the current political environment facing peace officers and decide to
pursue a career in law enforcement."
After a contract was worked out June 21 this was released by the County of Santa Barbara June 21:
The agreement includes salary increases representing two percent for the current year, two percent for the next fiscal year and three percent in the following fiscal year, totaling seven percent, and the same concessions already agreed to by the majority of the County workforce during the recession. County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato stated that the agreement did not provide either side with everything they wanted, but that it was an appropriate and fair compromise.
"We recognize and appreciate the work of the Deputy Sheriff's Association. Our financial situation is improving at a moderate rate but we also have many funding commitments, like the Northern Branch Jail, that affects what we can do," said Miyasato. "We feel our offer is competitive, fair and sustainable within the constraints of fiscal planning and budget projections."
The County and the DSA have been in negotiations during a time when the County has gradually been rebounding from the impacts of the Great Recession. Its budgeting process continues to place the county on the path of fiscal prudence and long-term financial sustainability, while every effort is being made to minimize impacts of service level reductions to the public, including maintaining appropriate staffing levels County-wide.