Friday, June 29, 2018

El Paso County jail deputies might get less training, Sheriff Bill Elder says

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2018 at 1:33 PM

click to enlarge Sheriff Bill Elder: rolling back training for jail deputies. - PHOTOS COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Photos courtesy El Paso County Sheriff's Office
  • Sheriff Bill Elder: rolling back training for jail deputies.
Attrition at the El Paso County Sheriff's Office has winnowed the staff at the Criminal Justice Center, so Sheriff Bill Elder has an idea.

He wants to convert jail staff from being certified by the Peace Officer Training and Standards board to not being certified.

In a June 27 memo to all personnel, Elder announced he'll research how other equally sized Colorado counties conduct their hiring, training and utilization of non-POST deputies to increase personnel levels.

He says by using non-POST trained deputies, the jail "will see an immediate benefit in several ways." Among those is all non-POST deputies would receive nearly half the training that POST deputies would receive, saving the department money. Also, pay scales would be lower for those who aren't POST certified, the memo says.
"This will allow us to put that savings directly toward hiring more deputies for the Detention Bureau, in less time, and save money in the process," Elder wrote.

(Money shouldn't be an issue, considering voters in 2012 approved a special sales tax for eight years beginning in 2013 for the sheriff to fund the additional of patrol and jail deputies, civilian staff, various equipment and supplies. The measure said the tax would raise about $17 million a year but now is expected to bring in $23 million this year. In fact, according to Elder's 2017 annual report, he underspent his budget by nearly $1.2 million last year.)

The change to non-POST deputies would require new policiies and standards of operating procedure to be created, reviewed, revised and agreed upon.

He goes on to write that "all advancement opportunities for promotion and transfer will continue" and that "no current certified deputy positions will be converted to non certified status and no one currently employed will have their pay decreased."

The Indy had a few questions — such as:
• What's the difference in training the non-POST deputies will receive?
• How long will the conversion take?
• What are the pay scales for POST and non-POST deputies?

We sent those questions in a June 28 email to the Sheriff's Office communications folks. Next thing we know, Elder scheduled a news conference for 10 a.m. Monday, July 2, to discuss all that.
click to enlarge The Criminal Justice Center is understaffed.
  • The Criminal Justice Center is understaffed.
Elder's department has seen a turnover of 32 percent of his sworn authorized strength of 533 officers since he took office the last day of 2014. That's a higher turnover rate than seen during the several years leading up to his term in office.

While Elder has pledged to never convert deputy jobs in the jail to civilian jobs, he's obviously looking for a way to stem to flow of jail deputies out the door. One way is by relaxing the requirements of becoming a jail deputy.

According to past and current deputies, staff has been shorthanded to the point that instead of one deputy per 80 inmates, it's not uncommon for one deputy to be assigned to watch two wards, a total of 160 inmates.

Also, deputy injuries are on the rise, according to a report by KKTV 11 News that aired June 22. The station reported that inmate assaults on jail deputies and staff had more than doubled, from 33 in 2016 to 73 in 2017. So far this year, 31 assaults have been reported.

“A couple of those deputies, the reason they didn’t get hurt worse is because another inmate saved them,” a deputy told the station, which agreed to withhold the deputy’s identity.

Elder's plan, according to the June 27 memo, would nearly cut in half the 22 weeks of POST training deputies now undergo.

Elder's memo cites a state law regarding the difference between POST and non-POST certified deputies, which suggests the only difference is the higher trained deputy can carry firearms at all times, concealed or otherwise, while a non-POST deputy “shall have the authority to carry firearms, concealed or otherwise, only while engaged in their jobs or as otherwise authorized by the written policy of the agency employing the officer.”
click to enlarge Jail deputies wouldn't require 22 weeks of POST training under Elder's proposal.
  • Jail deputies wouldn't require 22 weeks of POST training under Elder's proposal.
Sheriff spokesperson Jackie Kirby told the Independent a few weeks ago recruits go through about six months of training before they’re “on their own” in the jail, where crowding has given rise to attacks and belligerent behavior that makes the jail “a challenging atmosphere.”

A man died in the jail last September, and his family has filed a notice they might file a lawsuit. The jail was put on probation last December by the professional accreditation agency National Commission on Correctional Health Care, but it gained approval in April.

The American Correctional Association is due to inspect the jail this fall for accreditation, which was last bestowed in 2015.

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