Sheriff’s control room operators to be hired as deputies

Future Lyon County control room operators will be hired as full Sheriff’s Department deputies.

Lyon County Commissioners on Monday unanimously approved replacing the current civilian control room operators with sworn deputies when future vacancies occur.  This becomes effective with the filling of a current vacancy.  The four remaining operators will remain in their current status as civilian, unsworn sheriff’s department employees and will not be replaced with sworn deputies until they voluntarily leave their position.

Lyon County Undersheriff Joe Sanford said the Sheriff Department’s current budget can handle the extra costs associated with the new hire for the remainder of this fiscal year, which Sanford estimated to be approximately $15,500.

Comptroller Foli said he fully understands the Sheriff Department’s rationale in wanting the deputy control room operators, but cautioned the board to keep in mind the additional impacts to future budgets.

Foli said that considering the uniform allowance, training, et al associated with being a sworn deputy, the total additional annual cost will be approximately $40,000, and when all five operators become uniformed sheriff’s deputies the additional annual impact to the Sheriff’s budget will be approximately $200,000, equal to about 2.5 deputies.

A starting deputy position pays $78,361 (including benefits).  Retirement for law enforcement is now 40-percent, considerably higher than for a civilian employee, whose annual salary is $62, 802 (including benefits).

Sanford said having uniformed sheriff’s deputies in the position will be more beneficial to the agency in the long run.  The civilian control room operators have no law enforcement powers and cannot assist with any other law enforcement operations that a sworn deputy can.  He said the control room operators have generally been older, retired type individuals.

“We feel that even though there are costs associated with this process that over the entire process it would be much more beneficial to the agency, especially in light of the new facility opening,” Sanford explained.  “To us I think the additional value is extreme….With a uniformed deputy who is simply working in that position it allows us to cross-train our entire detention division (13 plus officers) and it would allow that in any point in time they could get up from that console and they could go and do medications, or help feed, or help process…..where at this point in time the civilians simply cannot do that.”

County Manager Jeff Page explained that under the current structure, the control room employees work under the Employees Association contract, which is a separate contract from the Sheriff’s Association contract – with different standards of employee requirements, noting that from a management operation point of view it makes it a much smoother operation for the sheriff to have them all be sworn.  He also pointed out that there is more room to advance on the sheriff’s association pay steps, making recruiting and retaining of these employees easier.

The following exchange took place at the end of the discussion, prior to the vote:

Commissioner Vida Keller: “As we keep going into these bad budget years and the money keeps going down, and we allow you to do this, and I understand and fully am for the cross-training, but when the budget comes around and we say ‘okay, you need another $30,000 or you need at least one more (officer) and now you need $90,000’, or whatever those figures are, and we don’t have it to give you and you gotta’ take it from somewhere else, are you going to be mad at us for approving this today.”

Joe Sanford: “Of course we are (laughs).  We have been very diligent working within the budget that is set and, with our manpower changes, whether it be attrition on the street or whether it be attrition in the jail, we always have some type of operating capacity left within our budget for manpower needs. We are hiring an individual, whether it is a civilian officer or a uniformed officer, either way.  So, there is going to be a cost difference, but that is somewhat the cost of doing business.  If we were not to get the funding, we don’t get the funding…..”

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