Amidst Staffing Shortage, Merced County’s Sheriff Is Often Sole Officer To Respond To Calls

Amidst Staffing Shortage, Merced County’s Sheriff Is Often Sole Officer To Respond To Calls

Merced County California’s Sheriff is officially sounding the warning bells.

Sheriff Vern Warnke, who has worked in the county’s office for 45 years, is officially declaring a public safety crisis, according to a new report from Yahoo and the LA Times. Why? Because he’s often finding himself the only person available to respond to calls.

In a recent incident, a woman reported a domestic dispute involving her armed husband. With no deputies nearby, Warnke, identifiable by his cowboy hat and badge, intervened and successfully defused the situation.

“We had nobody to send, and I, as the sheriff, I’m still a cop, I still love what I do. But we’re at that point when the sheriff and administration are having to take calls.”

Warnke has recently expressed deep concern over the rising number of deputy vacancies. In a recent video message, he lamented the staffing shortage, fearing it could jeopardize public safety, urging residents to recognize the severity of the situation.

He said in the message: “I’m fighting for the sheriff’s office’s life right now. That means I’m fighting for your public safety. So folks, it’s bad.”

He continued: “Our correctional bureaus are understaffed and overworked. Our patrol deputies are understaffed and overworked. Our communication center with the dispatchers — it could be to the point when you dial 911, we have nobody who can answer it. And that’s not a joke. It’s not a threat. It’s a fact.”

The report notes that the Merced sheriff’s office, usually staffed with 100 deputies for patrols, currently has 20 vacancies, while 23 custodial deputy positions out of 108 remain unfilled. The investigative unit, intended for 18 members, now operates with only eight, and the dispatch team has four vacancies out of 13 staff.

Despite recent pleas to the county Board of Supervisors for increased budget and control over fund allocation, Warnke’s requests have been ignored.

With just four deputies patrolling nearly 2,000 square miles during the day, and dispatch shifts covered by a lieutenant and two sergeants, the office faces severe understaffing. Colleagues are often asked to work overtime beyond their 12-hour shifts, with one dispatcher clocking over 700 hours of overtime in a year.

California’s law enforcement struggle is widespread, with patrol officer numbers per 100,000 residents at their lowest since 1991, according to a January report. Many cities, including Alameda and San Francisco, have resorted to hefty enlistment bonuses and pay raises to attract and retain officers. Even Los Angeles, with increased officer pay and bonuses, still grapples with vacancies.

Smaller municipalities offer incentives like gym memberships and dry-cleaning services, but rural counties lack the resources for such incentives. Tehama County suspended daytime patrols in 2022 due to staff shortages.

Despite its relatively larger budget, Merced County struggles to retain deputies, losing them to neighboring counties with higher pay. Despite offering $10,000 signing bonuses, Merced’s top deputies earn less than those in neighboring counties, creating a cycle of turnover. Warnke expressed frustration with the county’s short-term fixes and lack of long-term planning, highlighting persistent staffing issues despite past raises.

Tyler Durden
Mon, 05/06/2024 – 22:40 Source

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