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REPORT SHOWS SHERIFF'S EFFORTS PROGRESS MADE IN COVERAGE OF UNINCORPORATED AREAS.

Byline: ALEX DOBUZINSKIS Staff Writer

Los Angeles County supervisors have needled sheriff's officials for years about whether unincorporated areas of the county were getting patrolled less often than cities that paid the Sheriff's Department for policing services.

But members of the Board of Supervisors said they were pleased Tuesday, as they went over a report from Sheriff Lee Baca showing progress in making sure deputy vacancies in unincorporated areas of the county were comparable to vacancies in cities the Sheriff's Department polices on a contractual basis.

``For the most part, we have been absolutely pleased with the work that you've all done as part of the sheriff's team in trying to bring equity'' to patrol assignments, Supervisor Gloria Molina said after hearing a presentation from sheriff's officials.

``And you've just said the golden words, and that is we want to keep the unincorporated areas just like we treat the ... city contracts.

``And that's all we've ever wanted, is we wanted a fair share and equity across the board.''

At the Lancaster and Palmdale stations, the report indicates that vacancy rates were completely equal between those two cities and the unincorporated areas the stations cover.

The report, which uses August as the most recent snapshot of vacancy levels, indicated that the Lancaster station had a vacancy rate of about 30 percent across the board, with the Lake Los Angeles group having five vacancies on its force of 18 and the Quartz Hill group having two vacancies out of a force of eight. Lancaster itself had a force of 82, and 24 vacancies.

In the Palmdale station, the vacancy rate was about 28 percent, and that was also distributed evenly between the city and unincorporated areas. Lake Elizabeth, Acton and the Leona Valley collectively had a force of eight, with two vacancies out of a force of eight, and the Littlerock and Pearblossom area had four vacancies on a force of 14.

Palmdale had a force of 82, and 23 vacancies.

The balancing of job vacancies between ``contract cities'' and unincorporated areas came after Baca in May issued a directive calling for an end to unequal distributions. Conflict between the Board of Supervisors and the sheriff has diminished recently over the issue, in part because the county has had more money to give the sheriff for hiring deputies, sheriff's officials said.

Now, the board and the sheriff are working on a memorandum of understanding that would set how many deputies would be assigned to unincorporated areas, potentially leading to an increase in staffing for unincorporated areas.

``We put the money in the budget, and we are aggressively recruiting,'' said Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. ``In fact, the Sheriff's Department is doing a better job of recruiting than the Los Angeles Police Department.

``We're very pleased ... My only concern is that it's a workable M.O.U. That will enhance the (sheriff's) services (for) our unincorporated areas.''

The Board of Supervisors gave the Sheriff's Department money to hire 100 Community Oriented Policing deputies, and so far the department has hired 60 of those deputies. As the department continues to hire deputies from a tight pool of qualified candidates, vacancy levels will decrease at all stations, officials said.

In early November, the department will get a new crop of recruits.

That will bring the vacancy rate down to about 14 percent at the Palmdale station -- 22 vacancies out of a force of 160. The Lancaster station would have 24 vacancies out of a force of 179, or a vacancy rate of about 13 percent.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 25, 2006
Words:589
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