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Sheriff’s Office hopes raises will reduce loss of employees

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5 percent merit increase planned for deputies

By Ramsey Scott

The Jeffco Sheriff’s Office hopes measures proposed in its  2014 budget can help reverse the sharp increase in employee turnover the department has experienced over the last several years. 

The Sheriff’s Office has seen its turnover rate for both sworn officers and civilian employees increase during the five years since raises have been given. 

Currently, several employees are suing the Sheriff’s Office for what they claim are back wages and overtime promised on a salary schedule that existed when they were hired. 

So far in 2013, the department is experiencing an attrition rate of 13.5 percent for sworn officers and 8.5 percent for civilian staff. The attrition rate in 2011 was about 3 percent, with 5 percent considered to be acceptable. 

Many of the officers and civilian staff are leaving for better-paying jobs in other parts of the metro area, as Jeffco ranked 16th in a salary survey of metro-area law enforcement agencies.

The county is on pace for about 47 deputies to leave the department this year. If the rate at which employees are leaving the department continues, Jeffco would have to stop its participation in joint programs like the West Metro Drug Task Force, said Division Chief Scott Pocsik. 

As it stands, the Sheriff’s Office has had to reassign employees to make sure enough deputies are on patrol.

“Patrol is currently down 21 operational positions in the precincts. Because of this, we’ve had to make some difficult decisions to redeploy or reassign our traffic unit, our directed operations unit, and that’s a unit that specifically identifies crime patterns and addresses specific crimes and quality-of-life issues,” Pocsik said during a budget presentation to the Jeffco Board of Commissioners on Oct. 21.

The county’s proposed 2014 budget includes a 3 percent merit raise for all employees, but the Sheriff’s Office hopes to bump that number up to 5 percent for its sworn officers. 

The proposed 2014 budget for the Sheriff’s Office is $91.6 million, which represents about 19 percent of Jeffco’s entire budget.  

The total outlay for the pay increases would be $1.8 million for sworn officers and $450,000 for civilian employees. In the proposed budget, the Sheriff’s Office would help pay for the additional 2 percent increase by holding off on its vehicle replacement schedule until 2016.

The goal is to provide several merit increases over the next three years.

But while the Sheriff’s Office is looking to spend more on its employees, the goal is to save money in the long run. Each deputy that resigns represents a loss of an investment for Jeffco, Pocsik said.   

The Sheriff’s Office estimates that it costs $118,000 to replace one trained deputy. This year alone, the sheriff expects to replace 20 deputies over the acceptable attrition rate, at a cost of $2.36 million. 

Pocsik said that, given the current rate of attrition and the fact that police departments like Denver, Broomfield and Aurora are set to start hiring more officers, Jeffco could face an additional expense of $4 million to replace deputies. 

The Jeffco commissioners plan to vote on the county’s 2014 budget Nov. 26. 

 

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.