Brentwood Set to Discuss Low Police Staffing Levels

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A much needed discussion on Brentwood Police staffing levels will occur on Tuesday night thanks to Councilman Erick Stonebarger request a few weeks back. The report provided by Police Chief Mark Evenson provides a 5-year staffing overview and highlights a critical low point in available sworn staffing levels.

While some media want to highlight the fact crime has gone down in the past six months, its misleading because that is too small of a window of time and does not take into account all parts of the crime report and statistics. It should be said, crime is actually on the rise. Last year, Brentwood crime increased 17.9 percent and while crime is considered “down” this year, over an 18-month period, crime is up roughly 6%.

This report should kick off future talks about increasing staffing levels. Here is the staff report the council will hear on Tuesday.

RECOMMENDATION

Accept report and provide direction to staff.

PREVIOUS ACTION

Council member Stonebarger requested that the PD provide a staffing report that provides a 5-year historical overview of the Brentwood Police Department’s actual sworn staffing levels as compared to the department’s total budgeted sworn positions.

BACKGROUND

This report is being presented at the request of City Council. It is intended to provide a 5-year historical snapshot of the Brentwood Police Department’s actual sworn staffing levels as compared to the department’s total budgeted sworn positions. It applies to our sworn personnel and not the 20 civilian support staff assigned to the department. The report provides information on budgeted positions (sworn), historical and current staffing levels, staffing management, and a Part 1 crime statistics summary for the past 5 years (Appendix A).

The Brentwood Police Department, as with most police agencies, usually operates below their allocation of budgeted sworn positions. There are a variety of reasons for this situation, such as sick leave, mandatory training, court time, pregnancy leave, family medical leave, and vacation.

The two primary factors are absences due to duty-related disability leave, otherwise known as “4850 time,” and the time consuming process to fill open police officer vacancies. This report will focus primarily on staffing shortages stemming from these two reasons.

Budgeted Sworn Positions

The following chart identifies the current budgeted sworn positions for the Brentwood Police Department. This allocation of sworn positions has been in effect since 2004. For comparison purposes, Brentwood’s population in 2004 was 37,246 as compared to the current population of 53,278 (Source: California State Department of Finance).

 Chat 1- Budget

  • Position                     Total Allocated FTE
  • Police Chief               1
  • Captain                       2
  • Lieutenant                4
  • Sergeant                    10
  • Detective                   5
  • Patrol Officer           33
  • Traffic Officer          2
  • School Resource    3
  • K9 Officer                  2
  • Total                           62

Historical Staffing Levels

The following charts provide staffing data for Fiscal Years 08/09 through 12/13. Charts 2 and 3 are based on the total calendar days missed due to either 4850 time or police officer vacancies for each Fiscal Year, and the average number of positions below the 62 sworn budgeted positions for that particular year. Chart 4 provides a 5 year combined average for the number of sworn positions below 62. The total number of days missed divided by total number of calendar days in a year (365) provides the aver age number of positions under the 62 budgeted.

(Click to enlarge the chart)

Brentwood PD 4850 time

Current Staffing Levels

As of the date of this report, the Brentwood Police Department has a total of 1 sworn police officer vacancy (detective position) and 5 police officers on 4850 time. From an allocation standpoint, the department is operating with 6 sworn positions below our budgeted allocation of 62. However, the actual number of available officers is currently less. The department has recently filled six vacant positions, and these newly hired officers are currently in various stages of training and not ready to work on their own. Three lateral officers are in the field training program and should be working on their own by the end of December. Three entry level officers are currently attending the police academy. These entry level officers will not be done with the academy and field training program until approximately July of 2014.

Having this many newly hired officers in training is contributing to the current staffing challenges the department is experiencing. Chart 5 provides the actual number of sworn police officers positions as of the date of this report to include the subtraction of the 6 new police officers currently in training.

(Click to enlarge the chart)

BrentwoodPD Budgeted vs Acutual

*The actual number of patrol officers is being shown as 27 due to the temporary re-allocation of resources shown above. As you can see, a total of 4 positions have been temporarily reassigned to patrol from other units. It is important to note that our one current vacancy is a detective who was on 4850 time and medically retired on September 1, 2013. Another police officer is resigning and moving out of State at the end of September. Fortunately the department received the officer’s letter of resignation early, and was able to begin the hiring process on September 1st to fill both vacancies.

Staffing Management

As mentioned earlier, most police agencies operate under their allocated resources due to a variety of reasons. Though budgeted staffing levels have remained the same since 2004, the department’s actual staffing levels fluctuate almost on a daily basis. Over the past few years, the most significant impacts to staffing levels have been 4850 time and hiring qualified police officer candidates. This challenge is not unique to Brentwood as many other public safety agencies in the State of California are dealing with the same issues.

The past two years have been especially challenging as the department has seen unprecedented numbers of days lost due to 4850 time and a significant decrease in the number of quality police officer candidates, which will be further discussed later in the report. As you can see in Chart 5, the department has temporarily reassigned certain positions to accommodate the shortages in our Patrol Division. Though all of our positions are important, our Patrol Division must take priority. In an attempt to clarify the staffing management challenges faced by the department, it is prudent to provide some additional background regarding 4850 time, the hiring process, and the minimum staffing requirements in Patrol.

4850 Time

In the State of California, public safety disability leave is governed by California State Labor Law Section 4850. This time off is often referred to as “4850 time.” It provides all public safety employees in the State of California up to 12 months of paid disability leave if they are injured during the course of their duties and cannot return to their regular assignment based on the recommendation of their attending physician.

Once a public safety employee files a duty-related injury claim, it is reviewed and processed by the City’s insurance provider, the Municipal Pooling Authority (MPA). Chart 6 provides an overview of the number of duty-related injury claims filed, the total days lost per year, and the total number of days officers spent on modified duty.

(Click to enlarge the chart)

BrentwoodPD injuryclaims

The police department experienced a spike in injury claims during the 09/10 and 10/11 Fiscal Years. Although the number of duty related injury claims have decreased over the past couple of years, the total days lost to 4850 time has significantly increased. This indicates that the employees who are on 4850 time are off work for longer periods of time due to the seriousness of their injuries. The number of days an employee is unavailable to work his or her regular assignment is dictated by their physician, and not by the department. Please note that not all duty-related injury claims result in missed work days.

Over the past 3 years, we have taken proactive steps to implement strategies to reduce on-duty injuries and claims. One strategy involved the revision of our injury documentation procedures. The changes provided the ability for officers to document injuries without having to file a claim with MPA. Another strategy involved a revision to our modified duty policy. The department worked closely with the Human Resources Department and MPA to provide more modified duty opportunities for those on 4850 time when their physicians authorized them to return to a modified duty status. We did this knowing that modified duty assignments help employees return to regular duty sooner. While on modified duty, however, officers cannot perform their normal duties. One example of a modified duty assignment includes working the front counter answering phones and taking minor police reports.

The department has worked diligently over the years to reduce on duty injuries by implementing ergonomic solutions in the workplace. These solutions include, but are not limited to, modifying seats in our patrol cars; outfitting officers with equipment bags they can pull versus carry to reduce back related injuries; and we are in the process of purchasing new load bearing vests for officers that shift the weight of their equipment from their backs to their shoulders.

Many of the vacancies discussed above stem from those on 4850 time taking a medical retirement. Unfortunately, the department is unable to predict or forecast if these officers will, in fact, return to work or take a medical retirement. This is further complicated by the fact that MPA is restricted in what information they can share with the City and department due to the sensitivity surrounding an employee’s private medical information.

Even when the City finally receives word that the doctor has declared a particular employee permanently disabled, the employee is still entitled to the full 12 months of paid disability leave.

If the employee has not used the full 12 months, the City asks MPA to actively negotiate with the employee to “buy” them out early. Both the City and the employee can benefit from this process, and the department is able to replace the employee sooner.

For example, if an employee has been declared permanently disabled and has 6 months left on his or her paid disability leave, the employee could remain on 4850 time for the next 6 months receiving full pay and delaying the department’s ability to hire a replacement. Through proactive negotiations, the final settlement will most likely involve a cash buyout to encourage the employee to retire before utilizing all of their 4850 time, which allows the department to start the hiring process much earlier.

The Hiring Process

There are three main categories of police officer candidates; 1) laterals; 2) police academy graduates; and 3) entry level recruits. Laterals are experienced police officers who move from one agency to another. In the past, these officers have been more appealing to most agencies since they have already attended a police academy, are more likely to pass the Field Training Program, and they are going to be ready for full duty much faster than other applicants. Academy graduates are applicants who have graduated from a police academy but have not yet been hired by a police agency. Entry level applicants are those candidates who have not yet attended a police academy.

Over the past couple of years, it has become more difficult to hire quality police officer candidates that meet the standards required to be a Brentwood police officer. Most police agencies across the State of California, who continue to maintain high standards for future police officers, are dealing with the same issue. One factor is that agencies are seeing fewer lateral police officer candidates applying for other agencies. This is mainly due to the decreases in pay and benefits at both the local and state levels. Experienced police officers are opting to stay with their current agencies instead of moving to a new agency and potentially losing benefits and seniority. With a smaller pool of qualified police officer applicants to choose from, the competition between police agencies to hire them is at an all time high.

Once hired, candidates will spend another 4 to 10 months (lateral versus entry level) in training before they are considered a fully functional police officer. Chart 7 outlines the normal hiring process for police officers. The hiring process is mandated and regulated by the State of California Police Officers’ Standards and Training Commission (POST) and must comply with State and Federal law.

BrentwoodPD police hiring

On average, the hiring process outlined above can take anywhere from 3 to 5 months to complete. It is not uncommon to lose a candidate at some point in the process, which can delay filling the position. To anticipate this, the department attempts to process multiple candidates for each vacancy. The department is aggressive in their recruiting and hiring efforts. Like most police agencies, the department advertises vacancies in regional newspapers and national law enforcement bulletins and magazines. However, unlike most law enforcement agencies, department staff routinely visits Bay Area police academies to identify, interview, and recruit quality candidates who are attending the police academy and have not yet been hired.

Our current police officers actively recruit police officers who are looking to leave other agencies, and the department has hired a number of quality police officers due to this internal recruiting strategy. Like most police agencies in the State, the department is now actively hiring entry level recruits. The department currently has 3 recruits attending the police academy, and is in the process of interviewing another group of lateral police officer candidates this month.

 

Patrol Division Minimum Staffing Levels

The Brentwood Police Department’s Patrol Division operates on a 24/7 schedule and has three patrol shifts. Each shift is 10 hours long. The first shift works from 6:30am to 4:30pm (day), the second shift works from 4pm to 2am (swing), and the third shift works from 9pm to 7am (graveyard). As you can see, there is some overlap between each shift. It is designed this way in order to have the maximum number of officers available during the busiest times, which are usually from 9pm to 2am.

To ensure officer safety and adequate service delivery, all police departments in the country mandate a minimum staffing requirement in Patrol. The staffing levels vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction based on size. In the City of Brentwood, there are 4 patrol beats that cover the entire city. Our minimum staffing requirement is 4 patrol officers and 1 Sergeant per shift. Regardless of the fluctuations in the overall staffing levels, the department does not allow staffing to drop below this minimum.

If a shortage occurs, it is filled by either voluntary or mandatory overtime. The department’s overtime usage for FY 12/13 was $469,229, of which, $60,531 (12.9%) was used for voluntary and mandatory shift coverage. The remaining overtime budget was used for such things as court time; shift extension (workload); training; special events; and special enforcement details.

Over the first few months of FY 13/14, the department has spent $39,908 on voluntary or mandatory overtime to fill patrol shift shortages. This is a 42% increase compared to the same time period for FY 12/13. This is consistent with the fact that the department has 12 police officer positions currently unavailable for service.

Though staffing levels fluctuate constantly, the department always maintains minimum staffing levels in patrol. Ensuring minimum staffing byway of voluntary or mandatory overtime is necessary, but far from ideal. This is a reality in today’s law enforcement profession. When the department is at a low point in officer availability, like it is currently, it puts a bigger strain on current patrol officers, civilian support staff, supervisors, and managers. This can have a negative effect on the amount of time employees are able to take off, and the department runs the risk of burning out their employees. This is a constant concern that police department leadership must contend with and balance on a daily basis.

Conclusion

There is no question that we are at a critically low point in our available sworn staffing levels.

The situation will improve when the 6 new hires finish their training requirements. Once the department is able to return to normal operating levels, the department plans to fill the temporarily vacant positions to include School Resource, Traffic, K9, and the Sergeant’s vacancy.

Accounting for all of these staffing challenges has been difficult for employees at all levels of the organization. What continues to be amazingly apparent through all of this adversity is the unbelievable resiliency, commitment, and dedication of our department employees. Regardless of the challenges that has been placed on the department and the employees, the men and women of the Brentwood Police Department have unselfishly stepped up to ensure the organization continues to provide high quality police services to the citizens of Brentwood.

FISCAL IMPACT

Any fiscal impact is subject to Council’s direction to staff.

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BrentwoodPD 2013 staffing report


2 COMMENTS

  1. If Brentwood was smart, they will hire more officers and learn from Antioch that you need to hire as you go, not after crime is already a problem cause its hard to change the culture.

  2. @Jim, you are exactly right. If you use an annual “benchmark report” to determine staffing levels, then AT BEST you are a year behind. Add the time frame it takes to hire and train new officers and you are at least 18 months behind when the “problem” developed. Once a crime problem is entrenched, it is very difficult, if not impossible to remove it.

    That doesn’t even take into account the validity of said “benchmark report” in determining staffing levels.

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