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Posted April 2, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Study suggests hiring more sheriff's deputies

By Alex Bridges

WOODSTOCK -- The Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office needs to hire more deputies and change the work schedule, according to a study of the agency.

The Matrix Consulting Group recently completed the staffing study of the law enforcement agency, including animal control, the local jail and emergency communications. The county hired the California firm to conduct the study that takes into account the July 2014 scheduled opening of the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail.

Robert Finn, a representative of the firm, presented the report's findings and recommendations to the Board of Supervisors at a work session Tuesday. After three hours of questions and discussion, supervisors agreed the consultant representative should meet with Sheriff Timothy Carter and county Budget Manager Garland Miller to look again at some of the data presented in the report.

Carter expressed doubt about the study's findings for the cost to use the current county jail as a temporary holding area for prisoners when the regional facility opens. Carter told the board he could staff such a holding area for less money and fewer officers than the study says the agency would need.

The study also did not include information or recommendations related to the county's current effort to boost security at its school facilities. Acting County Administrator Mary Beth Price said the consultant could go back to the study to incorporate that information.

The study recommends the agency switch patrol officers from 10-hour to 12-hour shifts. Doing so eliminates a period of overlap created with the 10-hour shift practice, according to Robert Finn, the firm's representative.

The scope of the study included the staffing needs related to scheduled opening of the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail in July 2014. If the sheriff's office switches to a 12-hour shift schedule and closes the local jail as the study recommends, the agency would need to hire the four deputies to compensate for time lost as officers transport arrestees to the regional facility in Warren County, according to Finn.

Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli asked how the towns' police departments factored in the study. Finn explained that the study looked only at the towns in terms of when deputies responded to calls in the towns.

Implementation of the recommendations could cost the county more than $242,000. Baroncelli noted the study showed the county could save nearly the same amount by not running a local jail.

Board Chairman Conrad Helsley asked what step the agency should take first out of the recommendations. Finn suggested the sheriff's office fill the vacant captain's position.

The report also suggests the agency not use the county jail for temporary lock up when the regional facility opens in 2014 - an idea seen as a way local authorities could save travel time and money. But as Finn explained, the study did not address staffing and time issues for town police departments that would take prisoners to the regional jail. The study incorporated calls in towns responded to by county deputies.

The study's recommendations include:
* Increase staff in the patrol section by four deputies, from 16-20, at an annual cost of $215,78 in salaries and benefits.
* Change patrol section operations from a 10-hour to 12-hour shift schedule
* Implement a "power shift" in the schedule to maximize deputy availability during peak times for service demand
* Reduce the number of sergeants from five to four upon implementation of the 12-hour shift to save $59,819 per year
* Eliminate one patrol lieutenant position upon filling the vacant patrol division captain post to save $67,005

The study also recommends the county add two dispatchers to the emergency communications section at a cost of approximately $82,585 annually.

The study also makes recommendations on how the sheriff's office can improve security at the courthouse. The sheriff's office should assign two staff members to monitor the entrance and provide screening during peak traffic hours, the study states. The office should keep one staff member to monitor the entrance during low-traffic times and when court is not being held at the district courthouse. The study advises the office to work with judges to determine staffing needs by case type and schedule personnel to provide security.

The agency should add four part-time positions for courthouse security and allocate $39,920 to cover salaries, the study recommends.

The study recommends the agency keep current staffing levels in prisoner transport until the roles and responsibilities related to the regional jail are identified.

The study showed animal-related issues rank high on the list of calls received by the sheriff's office. The study recommended the agency staff a part-time animal control officer to provide coverage during peak call times, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and scheduled vacancies. This would cost an estimated $29,636.

The sheriff's office should cease local jail operations as soon as the regional facility opens, the study states. The office also should require arresting agencies to transport prisoners directly to the regional jail, according to the study. Direct transport saves the sheriff's office $1.71 million compared to the current jail budget. The county also saves $566,869 by not reusing the local jail as a temporary holding facility.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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