Study: Eagle County Sheriff’s Office understaffed
EAGLE COUNTY “The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office needs more staff, but it also could run more efficiently, according to a study on the department’s operations and staffing
Lafayette-based Voorhis Associates completed a comprehensive study of the Sheriff’s Office, and the results showed that most departments, from investigations to the administrative office, were slightly short-handed.
For example, an additional seven employees were needed in jail and detentions, the consultant estimated. That need will get worse as the county grows, the study said.
Sheriff Joe Hoy said he was not surprised by the results.
“We’ve always known we need more people, especially now with the new justice center,” Hoy said.
The justice center expansion will add 35,000 square feet to the sheriff’s offices, courts and district attorney’s offices, as well as 32 to 36 more beds in the jail.
Being understaffed means more overtime and stretched schedules.
The study began in April after the county commissioners raised questions over the Sheriff Office’s budget ” too much was being spent on overtime pay, they said.
The Sheriff’s Office always has been fully funded for working overtime, which has resulted in almost $1 million increases each year to the department’s budget.
This year, commissioners said they wanted to slim down the county budget, and cut overtime funds and asked the Sheriff’s Office to do their part to make their schedules more efficient.
However, the study did not directly address the overtime issue. The consultant did say that the current sheriff’s schedule is already very efficient.
“Our scheduling program is probably the best you can find,” Hoy said.
He said his department is already trying to cut down on overtime by training during regular hours and using flex time, where officers who work overtime can take the time off later in the pay period.
“We’re still going to have overtime,” Hoy said. “To make things work, we need to have people on the ground.”
One of the study’s suggestions to ease officer workload was to contract an outside law enforcement agency to patrol El Jebel. The Sheriff’s Office currently patrols El Jebel, which is a quieter area, but has a growing population, Hoy said.
“I’d have to look at it very, very hard. No sheriff’s office ever contracts with another law enforcement agency like that,” he said.
Consultants suggested changing the pay periods from two weeks to four weeks could make it easier for officers to balance training hours and flex time.
However, the study also offered a long list of suggestions on how the department could be even more efficient, perhaps reducing the need for some of the additional staff, said County Manager Bruce Baumgartner.
The recommendations included going electronic on things like police reports, or using more updated technology for jail security.
The staff also could be rearranged to different work schedules and locations to make the department more efficient.
For example, there are certain times of day and areas in the county that had more 911 calls come in. The study suggested rearranging staff to correspond with busy times and places, instead of evenly spreading them across the county.
The next step will be to discuss the study with the county commissioners, prioritize the recommendations, and look at how they will fit into next year’s budget, Hoy said.
“Some of the changes that we can make are valid and can be made easily. Others will take some time,” Hoy said.
Commissioner Arn Menconi said he was interested in seeing how the Sheriff’s Offices schedules affected service.
Baumgartner agreed he wanted to see where the department could be offering better service.
“What I didn’t see was a match-up between current service and community need so we can see where there is a gap,” he said.
The study will help the county make a plan for a better working, more streamlined Sheriff’s Office, commissioners said.
Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or email@example.com.