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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Regional

Job Vacancies Hamper Sheriff's Department

November 24, 1998

VENTURA — The Ventura County Sheriff's Department is down 45 deputy positions in a personnel shortage that is prompting thousands of hours of overtime and risking burnout among the work force, officials said.

Last month, patrol officers in Thousand Oaks, Moorpark and the unincorporated east county worked more than 3,000 hours of overtime--nearly double the usual amount, said Capt. Frank O'Hanlon.

Years of funding cutbacks were reversed in 1993 when voters approved a half-cent sales tax to help cover public safety expenses. A windfall of about $30 million a year followed.

Department officials beefed up their ranks: Nighttime patrol units went from one deputy to two; 50 previously cut sworn positions were reinstated; eight previously slashed court security positions were renewed.

Then, in 1995, the Todd Road Jail opened in Santa Paula, creating a demand for 47 more sheriff's deputies. In all, the department added 126 positions.

"And that's on top of the people we've lost because they retired or left the department," said Capt. Keith Parks, Sheriff's Department spokesman. "That's a lot of people."

The situation has kept personnel officials scrambling.

A booming job market is partly to blame. Kelly Shirk, personnel analyst for the Sheriff's Department, said more jobs are available, and young people tend to look elsewhere before considering a job that means carrying a gun and confronting criminals.

"Think about it," Shirk said. "This is a job where there is a possibility you will be shot at. Not a lot of people are attracted to that."

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