[the_ad_placement id=”banner-right-placement”]

[the_ad_placement id=”banner-left-placement”]

Sheriff once again describes severe staffing shortages and what that means

By Debra Moore

[email protected]

Plumas News has lost count of the number of times that Sheriff Todd Johns has appeared before the Board of Supervisors and asked for help. He did it again during the board’s March 14 meeting, outlining the dire staffing shortages in his office and what happens next.

“I have 20 vacancies in the sheriff’s department,” Johns said, and then discussed what that meant as he struggles to cover the dispatch center, the jail and patrol.

“We need 16 employees at the jail to cover the consent decree,” Johns said, noting that he has 10. That necessitates him pulling six deputies off of patrol to cover jail shifts. He has a particular problem meeting the need for female staff at the jail. As it is he is working without a female officer for hours a day, and if someone calls in sick, he described it as “a bit problematic.”

Johns has been able to make the staffing issue work, partly because the inmate population has been low. But that’s because there are fewer deputies working the streets to make the arrests.

The jail isn’t the only issue. The front office had to be closed to the public this week due to a lack of staff for various reasons. He also described the workload of one staff member who was trying to do the work of three individuals. The list was long.

Looking ahead, Johns said that there will be times when there is one sheriff’s vehicle covering the entire county instead of two. (Plumas News has noted an increased number of instances in the sheriff’s calls report, where officers are out of the area and can’t respond.)

Then there’s the dispatch center. Johns said he played the 911 calls that came in during the house and apartment fire in East Quincy. One call, he listened to several times. He wanted to play it publicly so that the board could hear what was occurring, but he couldn’t because it was too disturbing. Still, he was amazed at how well dispatch handled the call. “Luckily it happened during a shift change when there were two dispatchers … they did an amazing job,” he said. “This young lady who did an incredible job is considering leaving,” he said. “I can’t compete.” He then reiterated that he has 20 vacancies out of 86 positions.

Supervisor Tom McGowan asked if it would be possible to transfer all the inmates to another facility “so you can basically shut down the jail for a short period of time,” which would allow the deputies to be on the streets.

Sheriff Johns said he has investigated that option but when all of the costs of travel are considered to bring inmates to and from court dates, and the costs associated with paying the other counties, there is no savings. “Fiscally, it would be a wash,” he said.

Johns said that he wanted the board to reopen negotiations with the employees’ union, and County Administrative Officer Debra Lucero said has happened.

Later in the meeting, the board discussed spending money on updating its financial software, as well as $20,000 to join a group of counties that would promote the interests of those with a large amount of federal land within their boundaries.

Johns said during the meeting and in a follow-up conversation that priorities need to be addressed — public safety being chief among them.

[the_ad_placement id=”banner-left-placement”]