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Sheriff’s Office is losing deputies from the ranks 

Over and out

click to enlarge Several factors play into attrition rates, including retirements and resignations. - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
  • Courtesy El Paso County Sheriff’s Office
  • Several factors play into attrition rates, including retirements and resignations.
El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder has seen 171 deputies leave the Sheriff’s Office since he took office on Dec. 31, 2014, higher than in the years preceding his administration.

From January 2015 to the end of May 2018, those who resigned, retired, were fired or died represent 32 percent of the authorized strength of 533 sworn deputies. Attrition during Elder’s first year in office hit 9 percent among sworn personnel, the highest since at least 2006, when attrition was 6.7 percent. Older attrition rates weren’t provided by the Sheriff’s Office.

In the three years before embattled three-term sheriff Terry Maketa left, the sworn personnel attrition rate ranged from 2.7 percent to 3.5 percent. During those three years, 98 officers left.

Office spokesperson Jackie Kirby says the 9 percent attrition rate in 2015 stems from the huge influx of hires during 2013 and 2014 when authorized strength rose from 411 to 511 deputies after voters approved a sales tax increase in 2012 to fund law enforcement.

Kirby says the nonprofit Police Executive Research Forum reports most law enforcement agencies see 20-percent attrition rates during officers’ first 18 months on the job.

“We saw that was actually true,” she says. “We have not had a hiring like those numbers since, so that definitely does come into play.” The idea being, the more you hire, the more you’ll lose to attrition.

But she also says the Sheriff’s Office has seen a lot of jail deputies quit. “You’re getting feces thrown on you, our staff assaults are up, that is a challenging atmosphere,” she says, noting that all deputies must serve a minimum of one year in the jail before transferring to patrol or another assignment. “Once they get into the jail, they realize this is not for me.”
click to enlarge Academies to fill staffing gaps are held biannually, though some recruits apply elsewhere post-graduation to avoid jail duty. - DATA FROM EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
  • Data from El Paso County Sheriff’s Office
  • Academies to fill staffing gaps are held biannually, though some recruits apply elsewhere post-graduation to avoid jail duty.

The inmate population has grown from 1,200 to about 1,700 in recent years, and Kirby says inmates are more violent.

She adds that some recruits go through the Sheriff’s Office’s academy and then apply to other agencies where they can be assigned directly to patrol.

Kirby also adds the department saw several resignations after the November 2015 Planned Parenthood shooting when a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs officer was killed. “We had people say, ‘It’s not worth my life,’’’ she says.

While only five deputies were fired from 2006 through 2009, Elder has canned 12 since he took office, and Kirby says another five to seven deputies per year were given the option to resign “in lieu of termination.”

Elder also lost 53 to retirement during his tenure, compared to 40 from 2006 through 2009.

So far this year, nine deputies have left.

While Kirby says the attrition rate for law enforcement nationwide is 10 percent, the Colorado Springs Police Department’s rates in the last five years have ranged from a high of 8.3 percent in 2015 to a low of 4.4 percent this year.

Any staffing gaps are filled through academies, held twice a year, Kirby says.

As for civilian personnel, 108 left from 2006 through 2009, compared to 133 since Elder took office.

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