With riots, Baca woes intensify

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card “The intelligence indicated there was going to be a riot and there was no effort to separate gang members and rival gang members,” Antonovich said. “The seriousness of this, along with the injuries, the death and the potential injuries to our sheriff’s deputies, is the multi-million lawsuits that will result from this mismanagement.” Baca did not respond to requests for an interview. But his spokesman, Steve Whitmore, said Baca is taking appropriate steps to quell the unrest. “Whatever these candidates say is nothing more and nothing less than political opportunism to get their name in the paper,” Whitmore said. “The sheriff of Los Angeles County is focused on real solutions for real problems.” But Ken Masse, a retired sheriff’s captain who is challenging Baca, said the sheriff’s decision to stop hiring deputies in 2002 because of tight fiscal times was a “mistake of disastrous proportions” that contributed to current staffing shortages. The department has about 8,200 deputies, 1,200 fewer than what Baca has funds to employ. Baca has partly blamed the continued rioting on the manpower shortage, which often requires deputies to work double shifts. A week of racially charged riots at Los Angeles County Jails has sparked criticism of Sheriff Lee Baca’s performance, with questions arising over the management of his department and whether he has done enough to recruit and deploy his deputies. One inmate died, about two dozen were hospitalized and at least 100 others were injured in fights that began last weekend at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic and spread to Men’s Central Jail downtown. Fighting broke out again at the Castaic complex at about 4 p.m. Saturday, and officials reported that four inmates were hurt in the renewed violence. The clashes follow the slaying of nine other inmates at Men’s Central Jail in the last two years and come as Baca faces four challengers in his bid for re-election in June. Even Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, a staunch law enforcement supporter, has criticized Baca for not being aggressive enough in recruiting deputies and ignoring intelligence that riots were imminent. “I believe this was intended to put pressure on the Board of Supervisors to think he needed more money in order to hire more deputies and reopen the jails,” he said. From 1999 to 2001, the department hired 1,987 deputies – including 1,516 who graduated from the academy – and lost 1,201 to attrition. But after Baca shuttered his recruitment operation in 2002, the department hired only 1,171 deputies – 901 of whom graduated from the academy – and lost 1,849 to attrition. Last year, the department hired 582 deputies – including 370 who graduated from the academy – and lost 486 to attrition. Currently, the department is spending $1.5 million on its recruitment campaign – up from $450,000 a few years ago – and employs 16 deputies and three custody assistants to go to job fairs, colleges and military bases to recruit candidates. In addition to advertising on the Internet, the department also advertises on billboards, buses, in movie theaters, at health clubs, on the radio and on airplane banners at the beaches. Although the beginning salary range for a deputy trainee is $43,704-$49,392 a year, Personnel Administration Capt. Bruce Pollack noted that after a few years it jumps to about $73,000 annually. With overtime, it can reach $100,000 a year, he said. The department also tries to attract recruits by highlighting that it offers deputies $2,000 annually to attend local colleges and universities and offers longevity bonuses after 20, 25 and 30 years, which Pollack said is tantamount to the pension plans many police agencies now offer. By promoting these points, Pollack said the department expects to hire 1,000 deputies this year and achieve full staffing in a few years. “It’s formidable, but achievable,” Pollack said. “The reason it’s so formidable is because it’s a known fact that there is a smaller pool of qualified applicants nationally. And all law enforcement agencies are in competition with one another for this smaller pool.” But sheriff’s Capt. Ray Leyva, another challenger for Baca’s post, said that despite an additional $70 million the Board of Supervisors gave Baca last year to hire more deputies, the department had a net gain of only 17 deputies – to 8,194. “We have seriously hampered the ability of our people to do their jobs by continuing to understaff the jails,” said Leyva, who oversees the North Facility at the Pitchess Detention Center. “Most of our jails are running at 20-28 percent vacancy factors. The law says we have to do this job, yet we continue to understaff our jail system. We have to require them to work overtime. I believe our overtime budget this year will be more than $180 million and may approach $190 million.” Assistant Sheriff Paul Tanaka said the department expects to spend $159 million on overtime this year. The candidates – which also include Glendale Police Department Lt. Don Meredith and sheriff’s Sgt. Paul Jernigan Jr. – also accused Baca of dedicating too many deputies and their superiors to running various jail rehabilitative programs, draining the department’s already strained resources. Jernigan said Baca has lost track of the “basics in law enforcement” by closing jails and releasing inmates early. “Instead of focusing on the fat in the department, Baca went and cut the jails back and took the easy way out to meet his budget,” Jernigan said. “As a result, a lot of these units, such as the jails and even patrol, have been short-cutted.” Meredith criticized Baca for not redeploying deputies from administrative duties to the jails and patrol until the riots are quelled and the staffing shortages addressed. “It’s time to stop the social practices,” Meredith said. “The sheriff is not to be a social worker. He is to be the peacekeeper for our county. We see a lack of leadership. “If you look at the recent things that have happened and go to find the sheriff, the sheriff is in Jordan, Pakistan and Russia. He’s somewhere studying terrorism to prevent it from happening here. But we have daily street terrorists and gang members who daily terrorize, rob and steal all across the county. That’s where the focus needs to be.” Troy Anderson, (213) 974-8985 troy.anderson@dailynews.com Salary comparisons for Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and some police departments surrounding sheriff’s service areas: Beverly Hills: $5,579-$6,565 monthly Glendale: $5,027-$6,567 monthly Burbank: $4,862-$5,923 monthly; $2,000 signing bonus; Lateral hire: $5,108-$5,923 monthly; $5,000 lateral bonus Torrance: Starting pay $4,863 monthly; Lateral hire: $5,103 monthly Manhattan Beach: $4,794-$5,827 monthly; $3,000 lateral bonus Santa Monica: $4,604-$5,684 monthly Pasadena: $4,539-$5,558 monthly Long Beach: $3,921 during training; $4,357 after academy graduation LAPD: $4,260-$5,718 monthly LA County Sheriff: $3,712-$6,137 monthly El Segundo: $3,198 during training; $3,998-$4,860 after academy graduation; Lateral hire: $3,998-$4,860 monthly; $3,000 lateral bonus Source: Daily News research. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. 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