The L.A. County Board of Supervisors is looking at spending up to $1.5 million over the next few years to help address a department-wide staffing shortage in the Sheriff’s Department.
The contract looks at spending $250,000 a year the first year, with four one-year options and regular progress meetings with 9th Wonder, an international marketing agency that represents brands such as the American Heart Association, Amazon, Jack in the Box and Honda.
The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department notified the county of its intent to enter into contract negotiations back in December, shortly after Sheriff Robert Luna was sworn in.
“The department’s sworn staffing is at historic and critically low levels. The department currently has over 1,200 sworn vacant positions,” according to a staff report on the request. “These vacancies create immense stress on a heavily overburdened workforce, demonstrated by mandated overtime and high impairment rates.”
The report also says 9th Wonder has a history of working with the department, with its previous contract for such outreach expiring July 1, 2020.
A representative for 9th Wonder did not return a call seeking comment on Thursday.
“Approval of the recommended actions will enable the department to ramp up hiring and recruitment to attract the most desirable and qualified applicants in efforts to meet legally binding staffing requirements,” the report added.
In a statement emailed Thursday, 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the Santa Clarita Valley, expressed concern over the staffing levels.
“I am deeply concerned about the Sheriff Department’s sworn officer staffing levels,” she wrote. “Vacant positions create pressure and place stress on deputies, their families and the community at large. I am open and committed to exploring options that lead to new deputy sheriff trainees. Our public’s safety depends on it.”
A representative for the deputies’ union, the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, or ALADS, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
News outlets from Los Angeles to New York to Miami have reported on staffing shortages for various law enforcement departments, with California as one of the hardest-hit places nationwide. A recent CalMatters report noted rural counties have been the hardest hit, with one beleaguered sheriff in Tehama County announcing his office no longer had enough staff to patrol during the day.
A report from former Sheriff Alex Villanueva in February of last year during the discussion of this year’s budget included claims that the sheriff may have to end up returning money to contract cities because LASD might not have the personnel to fulfill its obligations. Villanueva said, at that time, the department’s staffing level was at about 72%.
Carrie Lujan, city of Santa Clarita communications manager, said in December that the Sheriff’s Department has always been in compliance with its contract.
However, also in December, Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Justin Diez was forced to turn down additional grant funding for overtime patrols, because he felt his troops were just stretched too thin.
“We did decline overtime money for the holiday patrol for a couple of reasons,” Diez said at the time in a previous Signal story. “There’s been extreme staffing shortages over the last year and a half. We’ve got a significant amount of overtime already and I didn’t want to further that any more.”