"There is no question there is a critical deficiency in the number of police officers at State Hospitals and Developmental Services. The solution is obvious, pay them and they will come." - CSLEA President Alan Barcelona
During the month of April, the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) has made numerous pushes for improvements for CSLEA police officers at Department of State Hospitals and Department of Developmental Services, including an improvement in salary. CSLEA has held meetings with the Health and Human Services Agency (HHS), the Legislative Analyst's Office, State Legislators and discussions with members of the media.
On April 6, 2015, CSLEA met with HHS to discuss the March 6th Agency report on the Office of Law Enforcement Support. Some of the many topics discussed included:
- officer pay and overtime,
- the DDS and DSH Office of Protective Services Structure,
- the various Units being created at the Office of Law Enforcement Support (OLES),
- the ongoing review of Departmental policies and procedures,
- the impact that the OLES will have on the daily functions and responsibilities of officers and investigators,
- the various recommendations identified in the report.
"Although all of these topics are important, the majority of the meeting was focused on a matter which everyone associated with DSH and DDS is well aware of," said CSLEA Senior Legal Counsel Ryan Navarre. "And that's officer pay."
The HHS Agency Report acknowledges that DDS and DSH have struggled to fill law enforcement positions over the years due to pay disparity from other law enforcement agencies. The Departments are unable to recruit, hire, and retain qualified personnel due to “officer pay disparity between $1,500 and $2,000 a month, on average, when compared with local law enforcement agencies.” Agency’s Report admits that the pay disparity is “systematic and significantly impact[s] law enforcement’s ability to perform its job at a sustained level of proficiency” and “the result is a lack of experienced long-term officers.”
Despite the Report's strong language and understanding that there are significant issues with officer recruitment and retention at DDS and DSH, the Report does not provide a recommendation on how Agency is going to address the “critical deficiency.”
CSLEA is supportive of Agency’s effort to strengthen and support the law enforcement divisions at DDS and DSH, but stressed that Agency is clearly missing the boat regarding officer recruitment/retention and pay. CSLEA provided information to agency demonstrating that neighboring law enforcement agencies are offering salaries anywhere from 30% to 90% greater than that of an officer at DSH or DDS. CSLEA also pointed out that the vacancy rates at DDS (47%) and DSH (20%) are significant and show no improvement. This causes extreme amounts of overtime for officers, amounting to more than 70 hours of overtime worked per officer per month at some facilities.
Over the past decade, the Departments have made efforts to improve recruitment and streamline hiring, however those efforts have proven to be ineffective on their own. The best recruitment and retention plan is to pay officers more – at the very least comparable to those agencies which DSH and DDS compete with for applicants and officers.
DSH and DDS police officers are seeking other law enforcement agencies to improve their salaries and other law enforcement agencies are seeking DSH and DDS police officers for their unique expertise in dealing with mentally and developmentally disabled individuals. This development is leading to countless officers leaving DSH and DDS to pursue employment at other agencies.
CSLEA emphasized to Agency, that despite CSLEA currently being under contract, the Administration can act on the DDS and DSH Recruitment and Retention proposals which are currently being evaluated at CalHR and Department of Finance.
Those attending the meeting on behalf of CSLEA were:
- Senior Legal Counsel Ryan Navarre,
- Supervising Legal Counsel David De La Riva,
- Coalinga State Hospital Police Officer and Hospital Police Association of California (HPAC) President Luis Jimenez,
- Napa State Hospital Police Officer Richard Danner,
- Metropolitan State Hospital Police Officer Jose Leal,
- Napa State Hospital Investigator Jesus Gallegos,
- and Legislative Advocate Kate Bell.
After the April 6th meeting with Agency, CSLEA held additional meetings regarding the Report and officer pay with the Legislative Analyst’s Office, State Legislators, Agency staff, and the media. As the 2015/2016 Budget process continues over the next couple months, CSLEA will continue to work with Agency and aggressively lobby for immediate changes to officer recruitment/retention and pay.