RIOTING COST SYSTEM LOTS OF OVERTIME 15,216 HOURS MOUNTED UP.
CASTAIC - The recent spate of fighting in the county jail system - at Castaic's Pitchess Detention Center, in particular - cost the county 15,216 hours of overtime, but the cost for that work is not yet known, a Sheriff's Department official said.
The extra manpower was needed to back up jail staff and to guard inmates who were hospitalized with injuries suffered in combat over some three weeks, battles that pitted Latinos against blacks. Sheriff's deputies, typically rookies, man county jails.
``It's difficult to attach a dollar figure to this because personnel have the option of taking overtime paid or saved,'' said sheriff's Sgt. Mike McCorkle of the sheriff's custody division. ``If they take it saved, they accrue 12 hours of credit (for every eight hours of overtime) that they can use with vacation or for other time off.''
McCorkle also said that it would be easy to calculate a monetary figure if all personnel worked similar shifts, but some auxiliary staff, such as those from court services, worked 10- and 12-hour shifts.
Using the starting salary of a deputy - $3,715 a month - the potential fiscal liability is a minimum of $326,079. Factoring in supervisory staff, the numbers are most likely much higher.
The allocated hours cover a period that started Feb. 4, when 2,000 inmates at the North County Correctional Facility rioted, resulting in the death of inmate Wayne Tiznor. The fighting continued sporadically, spreading to the Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles on Feb. 13, when inmate Sean Anthony Thompson died of injuries suffered in a racial confrontation.
``The overtime was utilized providing additional personnel at some of the facilities, along with additional response teams,'' McCorkle said. ``On the first day, personnel from patrol stations responded, along with court services division, to staff additional emergency response teams.''
McCorkle said that the last time this much overtime was dedicated to custody division, it was during a three-day melee at Pitchess Detention Center in April 2000, when Latinos and African-Americans clashed, injuring hundreds of inmates.
``We always track unusual-occurrence overtime,'' he said. ``Last time, it was the same scenario, at least for the custody division. This is all specifically for managing the disturbances in the jails. It doesn't include any overtime used for regular vacation vacancies.''
Deputies are routinely required to stay over their standard eight-hour shifts during emergency situations to ensure coverage. Additional deputies were put on overtime to guard hospitalized inmates; immediately after the Feb. 4 incident, 33 inmates were being treated at 15 different hospitals from Lancaster to Santa Monica.
In emergency situations, deputies working after their scheduled shift is over is standard operating procedure. But there is a limit, McCorkle said.
``The longest anyone can work, accruing overtime, is 19 consecutive hours,'' he said. ``That's department policy.''
Sheriff Lee Baca has blamed the unrest on a high inmate-to-guard ratio due to budget constraints. The county's jail system is the largest in the country, with 21,000 inmates in six facilities. Currently, there are only 5,000 deputies working in custody assignments, resulting in frequent forced overtime.
The Sheriff's Department is funded for 9,400 deputies, but to date has only 8,200 sworn personnel working out of the various stations. The department is aggressively recruiting candidates and county supervisors have directed staff to come up with additional financial incentives and deployment strategies to make working for the county more attractive.
Carol Rock, (661) 257-5252