SACRAMENTO- On May 7, 2015 California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) Legislative Advocate Shane LaVigne presented testimony in support of hospital police officer recruitment and retention improvements at the Senate Budget Subcommittee Hearing on Health and Human Services.
"We do want to press upon the committee and highlight, that there is an urgent need to take immediate steps to improve recruitment and retention of highly qualified and experienced law enforcement staff," said LaVigne. "A highly experienced and qualified police force should be the cornerstone of Agency's plan and is identified as a critical deficiency in the Agency’s March 2015 Report. Despite this critical deficiency, we are not aware of any immediate plan to remedy the high vacancy rates, frequent turnover, excessive overtime, and large pay disparity."
LaVigne continued by telling Subcommittee Chair Senator Holly Mitchell and other Subcommittee members about the severe issues facing CSLEA police officers at Department of State Hospitals and Department of Developmental Services. "Some of our facilities have vacancy rates as high as 47 percent, others 20 percent," said LaVigne. " Some of our officers are working 70-plus hours of overtime a month, pay disparity can range from 1500 to 2000 dollars a month compared to local law enforcement jurisdictions which are poaching our officers."
CSLEA continues to press for recruitment and retention improvements and has discussed these critical issues with Health and Human Services (HHS), the Legislative Analyst’s Office, State Legislators, and Journalists.
"Everyone agrees there is a critical deficiency in the number of police officers at State Hospitals and Developmental Services and clearly knows the reasons behind that deficiency. We have pressed upon this before, the solution is obvious, increase the salary for hospital police officers and you'll see drastic improvements to recruitment and retention." said CSLEA President Alan Barcelona. "It's time to do the right thing and make these necessary improvements."
The Senate Budget Subcommittee Hearing on Health and Human Services concluded with Senator Mitchell requesting HHS to return to the Subcommittee with proposals for improvements to the Office of Law Enforcement Support pending the May budget revision.
Immediately following the May 7th Subcommittee hearing, CSLEA contacted Senator Mitchell's office to schedule a meeting to discuss the immediate and necessary changes that must be made to complete HHS' plan for hospital police officers.
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.
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.
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.