Posted on 17 May 2010.
Sheriff’s Department pilots inter-country training program
It’s not often that real history gets made for a few hundred bucks. Usually, there’s a massive event involved costing millions, and the rest of the time such “historical” feats are cheap stunts to get into the Guinness Book of World Records. This time, however, it’s the real deal.
On Tuesday, the Mono County Board of Supervisors heard a request by Sheriff Rick Scholl to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department for the purpose of advanced field training of Mono County Sheriff’s Department deputies, giving them a “boots on the ground” look at how crime is handled in larger, more urban environments.
The program is of historic interest in that the pilot program will mark the first time in state history that two law enforcement agencies have partnered on such a project. Funding for the program won’t cost the County’s General Fund a nickel, taken from the Sheriff’s training budget line item. Approximate costs per deputy will amount to a pittance, just $700 per week (including per diem and hotel)
The Mono Sheriff’s Department hires two types of deputy candidates: academy graduates who have no patrol experience and lateral transfers. “Most lateral transfer candidates come to our agency with many years of patrol experience. Academy graduates come straight to our agency with no street patrol experience and are put through a 6-month field-training program; however, they seldom are exposed to the workload and situations that officers in larger, busier jurisdictions experience on a routine basis,” said Sheriff Scholl.
Working with San Bernardino County Sheriffs Department, Lt. David O’Hara has devised a training program in which Mono County deputies will be assigned, for a period of one week, to shadow an experienced San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Field Training Officer in the city of Victorville. “The purpose of the training program is to expose our less-experienced deputies to [a wider variety] of calls and crimes in progress to bolster their skills and abilities,” O’Hara told the Board.
Lt. O’Hara likened the cross-jurisdictional partnership to that which the Sheriff’s Dept. shares with the Town of Mammoth Lakes regarding the MONET drug task force.
County Counsel Marshall Rudolph said that workers compensation is a non-issue, since the deputy is still on the job even while observing in San Bernardino. He also said that the County would indemnify not only the deputy stationed there for the week, but also San Bernardino County as well, in the event they are named in any action involving a Mono County deputy.
Sheriff Scholl said that San Bernardino County would be the lead agency in any criminal investigation, and handle any reports and paperwork involved. In the event of an officer-involved shooting, Scholl said that situation would have to be dealt with on an as-needed basis, but suggested the chances of that happening are statistically remote.
Scholl said that if this pilot program is successful, he would like to get it implemented at the state level in part through P.O.S.T., the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, which has established benchmarks for California law enforcement since it was established in 1959.
Scholl and O’Hara said they anticipate sending approximately two deputies within this fiscal year and as many as five deputies next fiscal year.
The ups and downs of fees
Numerous County fees were up for reductions, as opposed to hikes, when Mono Supervisors considered a resolution adopting a revised fee schedule for certain County permits and other services at its Board meeting Tuesday. Some of the reductions, according to Finance Director Brian Muir, are mandated by the state.
Supervisor Vikki Bauer said she’s not used to seeing this many reductions. Muir replied that it is fairly unusual, since costs typically go up.
A few areas, however, saw some notable increases. New business license fees went from $53 to $150. Code compliance spends a considerable amount of time vetting license applications and renewals, and environmental health costs are incurred. Cost was always there, but it was never fully factored in. Renewals remain at $21.
Supervisor Hap Hazard took issue with a handful of fees that had high percentage increases. “Unless there’s a good reason to raise fees more than 50%, I’ve got real problems with that,” he said. One such boost: Animal Control, which had a 167% increase in adoption fees. Muir and County Administrative Officer Dave Wilbrecht pointed out that it would be inappropriate of staff to come up with lesser fees which didn’t reflect the real cost associated with certain services. Probation fees also increased considerably, but Muir said recovery of these fees is running nearly 100%.
Mammoth Lakes Fire Chief Brent Harper and Long Valley Fire Chief Fred Stump voiced concerns over increases in tax collection administrative fees, which are increasing a whopping 21% as opposed to the 5% originally projected. Unfortunately, the tax collection fees are handled via a third-party entity, and signed off on by the state comptroller. The item wasn’t part of the Board’s list of fees under review, but County Counsel Marshall Rudolph explained that even if it were, the County wouldn’t be able to change it anyway. Rudolph said “The code specifies, ‘The County shall …,’ not MAY,” Rudolph said.
Even with the reductions, the new fee schedule is projected to realize an overall revenue increase of $91,093, a boost of about 3% compared to last year. As Muir put it, “It’s not that much, but it is something.”
MLH goes countywide
Mammoth Lakes Housing Exec. Director Pam Hennarty updated the Board on the Homebuyer Program throughout the county.
MLH has become a major presence in various Mono County communities, including many north county households. Hennarty observed that the agency has “shifted gears in recent years,” transitioning from a “developer” of affordable housing to more homebuyer assistance. “It’s not as flashy,” she said, but has allowed MLH to increase its visibility in outlying county areas, helping place in those regions what some supervisors called “new, good people” who are “transforming the communities” in terms of upkeep and general appearance.
The lull, Hennarty said, has given MLH a chance to wait out corrections to Fannie Mae guidelines at the federal level. More than 55 loans have been given down-payment assistance. She said there have been no defaults so far, and MLH has managed to avoid having any of its loans fall into any “toxic” situations.
The countywide down-payer assistance program is in limbo for now. Hennarty said MLH has already gone through its available funds and is waiting on more ($800,000) that have been promised, but not yet delivered, by the state. In anticipation of the new money, however, Hennarty said county Regional Planning Advisory Committees are scheduled to learn more about the assistance program shortly as part of an outreach effort by MLH.