LANCASTER — The Lancaster City Council at its Dec. 11 meeting established a hybrid law enforcement model, appointed Public Safety Director Lee D’Errico police chief and directed staff to hire a consultant firm to develop options for the city to work in partnership with the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station.
The goal was to let the Sheriff’s Department focus on what they do best while a group of retired deputies can focus on the quality-of-life issues that take a lot of time.
“We would like to see an ability to pick up the slack rather than have deputies working double shifts, working without breaks, without days off, which has been the current state of affairs,” Mayor R. Rex Parris said at the meeting.
The city of Lancaster has the largest contract in the county out of the 42 cities that contract with the Sheriff’s Department. The service model is based on selling an allotment of time the city would like to have a deputy on the street. For example, a city can purchase a 40-hour unit (eight hours a day, five days a week or 10 hours a day, four days a week), a 56-hour unit (eight hours a day, seven days a week), or 70-hour unit (10 hours a day, seven days a week).
According to the sheriff’s officials, the deployment of personnel is tracked to the minute, ensuring the service purchased is the service provided. The cost model accounts for appropriate staffing to ensure compliance and the deputy sheriff service unit rates ensures that there are no additional out-of-pocket expenses.
The department does not publicize the amount of time the cities purchase. But Lancaster Vice Mayor Marvin Crist said at the Dec. 11 meeting that the Sheriff’s Department is unable to fulfill the city’s contract by about 24 deputies a month.
Law enforcement agencies throughout the nation are having trouble recruiting. It requires nearly 16,000 applicants each year to fill approximately 710 sheriff’s academy seats throughout the year, said Capt. Darren Harris of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
Last year the Sheriff’s Department’s deputy recruitment efforts and strategies focused on several areas, including community colleges, military bases, community events and even current L.A. County Sheriff’s employees.
Harris said the department has a robust recruitment task force that worked with outside entities with advertising campaigns.
The department started seven academy classes in 2018, the last four starting with 90 candidates, and the remaining classes were at least 97% filled. The department received 18,200 applications for deputy sheriff last year, which was up from the two previous years. In 2017 the department received over 15,600 applications, and more than 15,300 applications in 2016.
Historically, about 4.5% of all applicants qualify to be a deputy sheriff trainee under the department’s stringent standards. Those include a significant background check, previous employment, honesty and integrity as well as physical ability and weight requirements.
There are approximately 603 deputy sheriff vacancies, although some positions are not funded for salary savings. With approximately 321 deputy sheriff trainees in the academy, there is an adjusted shortage of approximately 155 deputies countywide as of Dec. 27, Harris said.
As of Nov. 15 the past seven academy classes started at 97% full or higher, and the last four classes started at 100% full. The most recent class started Dec. 13 with 89 trainees. Four classes are set to graduate this year. Each class runs approximately 22 weeks.
“We obviously have no way of knowing at this point how many of those will make it through, how many will graduate,” Harris said.
Once a trainee does graduate he or she will start in the custody environment, or jail. The time spent there varies depending on the number of vacancies. Other deputies who have been in custody environment then move to patrol training.
Deputies submit a transfer request to the stations of their choice. Those transfer requests are placed on a list by deputy seniority and when the divisions assign gains to stations, the deputies are transferred based on seniority.
The ideal candidate to become a sheriff’s deputy has high moral standards, a willingness to help other people and has made good personal choices in life, including not violating the law. The most successful recruits include former military service members, family members or friends of law enforcement officers and people who are studying law or administration of justice in college. Other successful recruits include college athletes who have worked with a team, have discipline and a hard work ethic as well as good physical ability. High school students who enter explorer programs and have expressed an interest in law enforcement may also make successful recruits.
A high school diploma is the minimum requirement, but new Sheriff Alex Villanueva has expressed a desire for future recruits to possibly have an associate’s degree.
“We obviously look for the highest-qualified candidates that are going to exercise good decision making, integrity, but also that are educated and have a good understanding of what it takes to enforce the laws, protect the public and exercise constitutional-based policing,” Harris said.
Anyone interested in joining the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department can take the deputy sheriff examination at 8 a.m. on Feb. 23 at Antelope Valley College, 3041 West Avenue K in Lancaster.
For details visit www.lasdcareers.org.
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