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Saturday, January 19 , 2019, 4:51 am | Fair 45º

 
 
 
 

Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department Implementing Mandatory Overtime Due to Staffing Shortages

Deputy Sheriffs Association raises issue as two sides remain at impass in contract negotiations

Staffing shortages in the custody division are prompting the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department to implement mandatory overtime.
Staffing shortages in the custody division are prompting the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department to implement mandatory overtime. (Noozhawk file photo)

A staffing shortage of custody deputies will cause mandatory overtime in the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department starting next week.

Vacancies in the department have increased as more people retire and transfer to other departments, according to a statement from the Santa Barbara County Deputy Sheriffs Association.

There were 15 custody deputy vacancies at the end of March, out of 19 total vacancies in the department, the association said. It’s an increase of five custody deputies and seven total deputies in one month.

“The public should be aware that staffing shortages of sworn personnel have already impacted the sheriff’s ability to provide the kind of public safety services Santa Barbara residents expect and deserve,” the DSA said in a statement.

“Moving custody deputies around the county to reach minimum staffing levels at one facility causes more severe problems in many other assignments.”

Custody staff operate the Main Jail near Santa Barbara and the Santa Maria Branch Jail, which was reduced to half-day operations two days last month because of staffing shortages, according to the association.

Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover confirmed the Santa Maria Branch Jail was reduced to a 12-hour day on March 19 due to low staffing at the Main Jail.

Mandatory overtime — 8-to-12-hour shifts — will start April 11, Hoover said.

It’s the same week that Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors budget hearings start.

“Mandatory overtime is utilized when our staffing levels do not meet our operational needs,” Hoover said in an email.

The Allan Hancock Law Enforcement Academy for custody deputies had 16 graduates for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department last December, and the next one is scheduled to start Aug. 1, Hoover said.

The Deputy Sheriffs Association also called out the lack of an employment contract since the previous memorandum of understanding ended in February 2015.

The bargaining unit and the county have been negotiating for a new contract for more than a year, said Joe Pisano with the Human Resources Department’s employee relations division.

“The parties are at impasse and, at the DSA’s request, have scheduled a fact-finding hearing later this month,” Pisano said in an email.

A fact-finding process can be requested by a bargaining unit as an attempt to help parties reach a settlement.

The Deputy Sheriffs Association has also asked to start negotiating terms and conditions of employment for the 2016-17 fiscal year, which starts in July, and the county is evaluating that request, Pisano said.

“The terms and conditions of the expired MOU remained in effect during the negotiations and impasse procedures,” he said.

The Sheriff’s Department's latest staffing report had 509 total sworn positions, at all staff levels, and 204 of those are in custody classifications, Pisano said. Those numbers do include vacant positions, he noted.

In a statement, Sheriff Bill Brown said he shares the DSA’s concerns about staffing levels, and intends to ask the Board of Supervisors for more personnel during this year’s budget process.

Not all cut positions were added back after the recession, and “the work certainly hasn’t gone away,” he said.

“Our issues with overtime usage have been documented for several years and reflect our issues to backfill vacancies, train new recruits and make up for lost positions by using overtime.”

The department has gone millions of dollars over budget with overtime use in recent years, and those costs have to be approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Brown said agencies all over the country are struggling to recruit officers, with fewer people applying for jobs in law enforcement and corrections.

“The relentless and significantly misplaced criticism directed against all American peace officers for the misconduct and inappropriate actions of a few has had predictably negative consequences,” Brown said.

“While the DSA’s concerns are valid, the Board of Supervisors will continue to be faced with difficult decisions on how to allocate the limited revenue growth the county government has received in the aftermath of the recession.

“Everyone should be aware that the dedicated men and women of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office continue to have the communities’ welfare at the forefront of their concerns. I remain committed to working with the DSA and the Board of Supervisors to resolve these challenging issues.”

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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