County faces more layoffs | March 6, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - March 6, 2009

County faces more layoffs

10 percent cut expected in Sheriff's Department

by Geoff Gillette

Budget woes facing Contra Costa County may lead to the loss of as many as 75 deputies from the county Sheriff's Department including patrols in unincorporated areas such as Alamo. In an internal memo recently sent to members of the department, Sheriff Warren Rupf warned that an expected $18 million deficit in county coffers was going to severely impact them.

Undersheriff Scott Daley said that because of streamlining of services and some budget cuts they will only need to make up around $10 million of that $18 million shortfall, but it will still be difficult.

Daley said the deficit comes in the wake of four years of budgeting.

"We've been coasting down for about four years," he said. "As a result we don't have a lot of positions to cut that aren't going to make a direct impact on our ability to serve the public."

Daley said one thing the department has done over the past several years is "civilianize" key non-law enforcement aspects of the job. Doing this freed up sworn officers to be out on the roads and performing their duties. However, as times have grown tighter, civilian vacancies have not been filled.

"We're currently holding about 60 civilian employment vacancies and about 40 sworn vacancies. This cut will be in addition to those," he explained.

Estimates show that for each $1 million the Sheriff's Department needs to cut, it must reduce its workforce by 7.5 officers. Thus a $10 million reduction will result in the loss of 75 sworn officers.

Daley said many of those cuts will come from the investigative branch as well as the patrol division that handles the unincorporated areas of Contra Costa County. He said that many of the unfilled vacancies have already occurred in these areas but there is not much leeway to cut positions in other areas such as the County Jail.

"Due to the design of our jail and the current population, the staffing level there is pretty much dependent on the inmate population and what we need to do to provide the staffing level," he explained.

District 3 County Supervisor Mary N. Piepho has said that the level of cutbacks in the Sheriff's Department is not acceptable and she is asking the Sheriff's Department to examine ways in which they can reduce expenditures without reducing the number of front line officers.

"I'm looking for the sheriff to convince me that he has nowhere else to cut besides front line law enforcement," she stated.

She has asked county officials to begin working with the sheriff to find ways to prevent the layoffs and has said it is a priority for the county to maintain levels of essential services.