What I saw today is really like the jails all over again. It’s frustrating; we lay out reality in Sheriff Laurie Smith’s realm and everyone ignores it’s a problem until there is a body the sheriff has to publicly step over. We all pretend the sheriff is doing great job and the information she tells us is true really must be true. It’s not true and staffing in enforcement is reaching a crisis point. I saw evidence of that today.
The sheriff runs her own academy, 80% of it filled with cadets for other agencies. Those she does hire for her office are often not A- or B-class candidates and ultimately fail out between the academy and FTO — there is a 50% in-academy failure rate for the cadets brought on for the sheriff’s office. Ten new deputies a year will not cover expected losses this year. We’ve already exceeded that in just a few months.
I was told last week yet another deputy of long standing who has filled high profile assignments has submitted his resignation, giving his date of departure. I was also told that several personnel with 5 years or less may be turning in resignations having received offers from other agencies. The numbers are dwindling, we are becoming a training ground for other agencies looking to save money by hiring laterals. The losses are only going to increase.
Several weeks ago, we pointed out that there was a staffing crisis in courts. That the sheriff had been shorting courts and playing a shell game with personnel in enforcement to cover the contract by filling the positions with people who are out on injuries. I’m sure since March when I pointed out the numbers weren’t adding up, it’s still not being taken seriously. They didn’t take it seriously when we pointed out the problems in jails staffing and all the other issues it was causing, nothing is different here. Lesson not learned.
I was brought over to a friend’s computer and shown an email today from the captain of Investigations. It states there is a “dire need” for bodies in courts and it brilliantly attributes one of the “many reasons” a problem exists is because of the Super Bowl. If the courts, and the office in general, were staffed appropriately there would be no “Super Bowl problem.”
The problem Super Bowl caused was it consumed limited hours of retirees working as extra help deputies who can only work about 980 hours a year. The sheriff unwisely relies on these individuals for primary staffing needs in courts these days – core needs that are full time positions that should be filled by deputies who can work a full year. Even without the Super Bowl, the limited hours extra help can work would have resulted in a shortage of personnel long before the end of the year. There simply are not enough people to work enough legal hours to cover the personnel needs.
Back in March we told everyone here that the sheriff would happily gut other areas of the office to make sure that she could cover her contracts when extra-help could no longer cover the gap. No one is looking at the on-going status of her core responsibility other than her. Apparently we have come to that point of crisis management already.
I found out today, just a few weeks after my blog post about the situation in courts, an email from the captain in Investigations was sent out; again, it notified his staff that courts was in “dire need of individuals to work OT”. He discussed the possibility of “day trading” investigations personnel to free them up for overtime in courts.
The bottom line came to this, “…harsh reality is that if we do not assist the court security division, we may have to cut some of you from your assignment to assist courts.”
So while it’s not “mandatory over time”, if they fail to work overtime and help staffing needs in courts, they risk losing their elite assignment in investigations. To go to courts…generally considered a punishment.
All this will ultimately further cut into an investigation division that is failing anyway. Investigations is short on staff itself, and because of it’s poor management there is an increasing problem in successfully closing cases. I was recently told that several people promoted or given special assignments left 200-300 open files behind each, many untouched at all. There is no tracking or update system on cases and no case management process in general to get the problem under control. It’s a state of perpetual denial by the lieutenant and captain. Cases that no matter how heinous, too often can no longer be successfully pursued — far to often in the time the case sat neglected by the now promoted individuals, witnesses have disappeared, or time critical evidence wasn’t collected because no one ever started an investigation. The truly sad thing is that it is likely no one will ever know anything about these cases, or the victims who will never see justice served.
With the sheriff desperately threatening to cut coveted positions from investigations, we’re looking at enhancing one growing crisis to fix another growing crisis.
More cases will continue to come in, and more of those cases will sit uninvestigated. She doesn’t care because there is no contract obligation to cover investigations. She is going to cover the contract need by using positions you will never know aren’t filled. Well, you likely won’t, unless of course you ever need a detective to investigate your assault, rape, or other violent crime against you. But you know what… it’s not really all that violent an area anyway. I mean how can it be when cases are never documented, investigated and closed to effectively measure the statistics of the crime in our county?