Negotiations between L.A. County officials and the deputies’ union continue as the Sheriff’s Department faces a shortage of about 1,500 law enforcement officers, a deputies’ union official said Friday.
A representative for the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) confirmed information obtained by The Signal that indicated both sides have met more than a dozen times.
County officials said they were “confident” an agreement would be reached in the best interests of both parties, but declined to discuss where parties were at with respect to a deal or address department claims, citing the confidential nature of ongoing negotiations.
“While we are optimistic for a mutually successful conclusion, it would be inappropriate to comment during ongoing negotiations,” said Tony Bell, a spokesman for Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the 5th District.
The negotiations have been taking place between the county’s CEO Office and ALADS since well before the current contract expired Jan. 31, said Derek Hsieh, a retired law enforcement officer who’s the executive director of ALADS.
While both sides are working at a resolution, the situation is becoming increasingly difficult for deputies, he said. Santa Clarita contracts with the Sheriff’s Department for services that include law enforcement, public safety and outreach programs.
In an interview Friday, a representative for deputies expressed concerns that the recent staffing shortage is getting worse as time passes.
“With the severe shortage of deputy sheriff’s in every operational area of the department,” Hsieh said, “the contract negotiations are critical in order to keep the Sheriff’s Department competitive for the best and the brightest.”
Hsieh praised Barger, saying there’s “no question” she’s been a “tremendous supporter” of the Sheriff’s Department, and he hoped that other county officials would also recognize the concerns the staffing situation and lack of a contract are causing.
At some jails, deputies are running averages of 48-60 hours of mandated overtime monthly, Hsieh noted, which means anywhere from six to eight additional shifts.
“The systemic overtime results in fatigue, exhaustion, demoralization of the force, it results in high turnover,” he said, “and it makes the Sheriff’s Department a less favorable place to work.”
County and sheriff’s deputy union officials re-iterated Friday that the status of the talks could not be disclosed, but also expressed optimism.
“We’re confident that county and (Sheriff’s Department) negotiators will come to an agreement,” said Joel Sappell, acting director of countywide communications for county’s Chief Executive Office, “that is in the best interests of the public and the safety of our neighborhoods.”
At the end of the day, the shortage could make matters worse in a prolonged crisis situation, Hsieh said, noting that as the department is the mutual aid for first-responders throughout Los Angeles County—meaning in a prolonged crisis response like during the recent Sand Fire, deputies are called out to assist, he said. But they can only work so many hours in a week, and some are already being asked to cover more than a half-dozen extra shifts per month.
“If you already have the deputies working 64 hours a week,” Hsieh said, “when you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul to meet your minimums, you just don’t have the capacity.”