The Santa Barbara County Undersheriff says the reassignment of detectives to patrol vehicles will only be temporary due to staffing shortages.
Barney Melekian says new recruits are coming in 2017 and the issue will be brought up in budget hearings as early as January in front of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. Melekian said calls for service will not be compromised and the public will get a full response.
“When we talk about the questions you raised about someone calling 911 are they going to get a response ? We are making sure that we are meeting our minimum staffing requirements. That’s where this is coming from. That is the reason these detectives are being reassigned. We are trying to meet our minimum staffing requirements without spending anymore overtime dollars than we need to,” said Melekian.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s detectives were transferred from their assignments in the Criminal Investigations Division in order to cover vacant patrol positions.
The Santa Barbara County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association (SBCDSA) said the positions were left vacant due to budget shortfalls related to overtime cost overages. They claim the overtime expenses are a direct result of the growing number of chronically vacant deputy sheriff positions.
In a press release, the sheriff’s association said the County Board of Supervisors failed to prioritize resources for the Sheriff’s Department, “virtually ending countywide specialty assignments.”
“Most Sheriff’s Department personnel have been working mandatory overtime since earlier this year. Patrol deputies were all placed on mandatory overtime and a 96-hour work schedule in August 2016 to help meet minimum staffing requirements,” the press release stated.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Public Information Officer Kelly Hoover released a statement that said all options were considered and the department is doing its best to fill vacant positions:
“The Sheriff’s Office recognizes its staffing shortage and is working diligently to address the issue. The overtime and reassignment of deputies was done after a full consultation with the DSA (Deputy Sheriff’s Associaton). We are reviewing the situation every 90 days and in the meantime we are hiring deputies at an accelerated rate. However it does take time to fill vacancies and to fully train deputies to take over for those who retire.”
In a statement released to KEYT, County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato said the County Board of Supervisors were not responsible for how the department utilized their budget and indicated that the sheriff’s budget has grown regularly:
“By law, the County Board of Supervisors does not control the operations of the Sheriff’s department or how resources are used. The Board approves the department’s overall budget, which has increased every year since [fiscal year] 2012-13, largely due to salary and benefit increases.”
The SBCDSA said they understand the necessity of imposing the reassignments to meet minimal staffing needs and they appreciate the concurrent rollback of mandatory overtime in some assignments.
The changes are expected to stay in effect until March, 2017, at which point the deployment will be reviewed.
SBCDSA said they are encouraged by the communication from the Sheriff’s Command staff and said they look forward to continued the dialog and resolve the staffing shortages.