Mono County Supervisors were less than pleased with the April 28 press release from the Mono Sheriff’s Department detailing cuts to deputy patrol hours.
Hours will be cut from 6 a.m.-12 a.m. to noon to 12 a.m. with call-out service for the other 12 hours. (See “Law enforcement cutbacks for Mono” in the May 7 edition of The Sheet.)
The cuts were made clear in the press release, but not its impetus. The first sentence of the press release states, “The Mono County Sheriff’s Office experienced substantial fiscal reductions to its budget due to the economic downturn of recent years. Our budget for this fiscal year (15/16) is two-thirds of what it was just five years ago.”
“The press release made my phone ring off the hook,” Mono County Supervisor Tim Fesko told Mono County Sheriff Ingrid Braun at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, May 10. Constituents were blaming Supervisors for cutting the Sheriff’s Department budget that led to the reduction in service hours.
He called it an “injustice” to infer that the county was to blame for the cuts, whether intentional or not.
The reduction is due to [lack of] recruitment not the budget, Fesko added.
The Sheriff apologized to the board for not making the press release clearer. An additional release may be issued to clarify. She said she likes to keep the press releases short and to the point to accommodate modern (short) attention spans
Braun explained that while the budget has been cut, the true reason for the reduction is the lack of successfully recruiting new lateral, or trained, deputies. There are currently six vacancies, leaving 10 deputies, but another is on light duty because of an injury, bringing the total to nine out of 16 positions.
Braun said she intended “budget” in the press release to relate more to the salaries offered, not the department’s purse. Mono County Sheriff’s pay deputies less than neighboring law enforcement agencies, like Mammoth Lakes Police or Inyo County Sheriff’s Department according to Braun.
A big stumbling block to recruitment is the amount Mono deputies pay into the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS). In the last round of contract negotiations, deputies agreed to contribute 16-percent, up from 9-percent in exchange for an increase in salaries.
Retention is not so much a problem, says the Sheriff. One deputy was set on moving to Mammoth Lakes Police Dept. for more pay but it also would have meant more overtime, so he decided to stay a deputy.
Finding qualified personnel is not unique to Mono County but a statewide problem. But recruitment to Mono County can be challengoing just because you’re not going to easily find someone who’s relocating within commuting distance of their exiusiting residence. Most have to commit to a complete life change to take the job.