Sheriff’ staffing still off

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week McSweeney estimates it will take two years to recruit and train enough deputies to staff all the county’s jails and sheriff’s stations. “We’ve got about 8,300 deputies now, and we’re about 1,000 light,” he said. “We are filling up the academy with good candidates, but getting the right people and getting them trained takes time. “Probably half of what we graduate (from the academy) is to cover attrition, and, during the good times, we usually hire enough people every year to keep almost all the positions filled,” McSweeney said. About 400 deputies retire every year, according to McSweeney, and two years of a hiring freeze stretched the department thin. In addition, deputies and staff usually assigned to recruitment and training were moved to other duties. After two years of budget cuts and hiring freezes in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Board of Supervisors in September announced with much fanfare that they were spending $10 million to fill the sheriff’s depleted ranks. Additionally, the department announced that community policing teams pulled three years ago from Whittier, Rowland Heights and Hacienda Heights would be restored. But after three months, the department is still about 12 percent short of a full staff of deputies, according to Bill McSweeney, chief of the sheriff’s leadership and training division. In the San Gabriel Valley alone, stations are still short about 69 deputies, according to statistics. Getting background checks and training programs rolling again took time, McSweeney said. “We literally had to go in and clean and dust classrooms that hadn’t been used in a while,” McSweeney said. The Sheriff’s Department is competing with all other area law-enforcement agencies, which also have recently ramped up recruitment efforts. Part of the shortage might also be attributed to the fact that many of the best candidates are serving with the U.S. military in Iraq, sheriff’s officials said. In the Whittier area, the sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station has 21 vacancies and the Norwalk Station is short six officers. Chief Marvin Cavanaugh, who in command of sheriff’s stations in eastern Los Angeles County, said the news is not as bad as it seems. “Deputy vacancies at a station does not necessarily mean there is a shortage in patrol operations (the actual field work),” he wrote in an e-mail. The last two years, the department cut down on the number of desk jobs, such as watch commanders and detectives, and reassigned deputies to patrol, he said. The department used overtime hours to make sure every station had enough patrol deputies, he said. But, Norwalk Station Capt. Ralph Webb said that constant overtime work can be tiring for deputies. “Under-staffing hurts patrol the most,” said Webb. “The vast majority of our 159 deputies are patrol deputies. They have to do a tremendous amount of overtime just to fill our commitment to Norwalk, La Mirada and unincorporated Whittier. A lot of people are getting tired of working all the overtime.” Pico Rivera Station Capt. Irma Becerra said that under-staffing is demoralizing for deputies. “Under-staffing stops movement for deputies to get elite assignments as detectives or in homicide,” Becerra said. “In order for there to be movement, deputies have to move from the jails to a station. Then, they have to apply for a more specialized job.” Less deputies coming from jails into stations means less promotions for officers. “It’s a little bit demoralizing for deputies,” she said. Ben Baeder can be reached at (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2703, or by e-mail at Sandy Mazza can be reached at Ext. 3026, or by e-mail at local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more