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The Portola hospital shooting and the NBC Dateline episode featuring the Wallin-Reed murder trial prompted Supervisor Lori Simpson to approach Sheriff Greg Hagwood about hiring more deputies.
Following their discussion, the pair brought the subject to the Board of Supervisors on Nov. 12.
“Sheriff Hagwood did not bring this up,” Simpson said. “I felt we should address hiring deputies in the outlying areas.”
She said that Hagwood didn’t ask to hire more personnel during the budget hearings, because “he knew that the county was dealing with employee furloughs.”
Simpson said that while it could require using the county’s contingency fund, she favored hiring two to three deputies.
“I would like to thank Supervisor Simpson for initiating this productive conversation,” Hagwood said as he addressed the board.
According to Hagwood, his department is staffed with four sergeants and 14 deputies, which is short of the full allocation approved by the supervisors.
“Currently we are operating with nine vacancies in the deputy ranks,” Hagwood said, adding that his department is feeling the effects of cuts from past budget cycles.
Historically, the department served the county with deputies working out of the substations in each of the four communities, but now the county is divided into two patrol areas: Greenville and Chester, and Portola and Quincy.
“We make every effort to team up officers in cars at night,” Hagwood said, but added that circumstances don’t always allow for that.
He said that the change in patrol coverage has resulted in “unacceptable delays in emergency services.”
Supervisor Sherrie Thrall said, “The very first responsibility of county government is public safety.”
Supervisor Jon Kennedy said there was no question that the county needed to hire more deputies, but wondered about the funding, which would total about $250,000 annually for three deputies.
“That would eliminate next year’s contingency fund,” Kennedy said.
“We all want to do this,” Thrall said, but added that she didn’t want to hire deputies just to lay them off again, in the absence of an ongoing funding source.
The supervisors decided to discuss the issue again during their Dec. 4 meeting, and asked Hagwood to present a spending plan.
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